John Bacon, an author close to the University of Michigan, has reported that Michigan football has offered Jim Harbaugh an extension.
After a lot of waiting, some news about the contract talks between Michigan football and Jim Harbaugh became public and the Wolverines have offered a three-year extension.
This first came from Bacon, who has written a number of books about the program, including one recently about Harbaugh. His reporting was later confirmed by the Detroit Free Press, which also said Harbaugh was offered a new deal but at a lower salary and a lower buyout.
Bacon dropped his information on Twitter and here are the tweets:
So essentially to wrap it up, Harbaugh was offered a three-year extension with incentives, but lower pay overall and money to bring in top-flight assistants. Now, as Bacon says, he can take the deal, say no or keep negotiating, which it appears Harbaugh is doing with the NFL angle.
Chris Balas of Rivals (subscription required) also dropped some knowledge on an insider chat. Basically, he is reporting that Harbaugh was offered less than the deal that was discussed prior to the pandemic.
The question now, is what will Harbaugh do? What should he do?
What happens next?
Right now, the ball is in Harbaugh’s court so-to-speak, but there are a lot of things about this contract offer that make you wonder.
For starters, a three-year extension sounds nice and maybe it’s long enough to sell to recruits and from a PR perspective, but it’s offers no assurances for Harbaugh beyond 2021. That’s probably a good thing from the U-M side of things, but it’s not addressing the issue long term.
If the Wolverines struggle in 2021, we will be in the exact same situation. And as has been discussed at length already, no head coach is going to go into the final season of his current contract without a new one.
Meaning after the 2022 season, two years from now, Michigan football and Harbaugh would be negotiating again.
Now, maybe the program will be back on the rise at that point after a couple of solid years and that could be enough to give Harbaugh a true long-term extension of 5-6 years.
But basically, this is a year-to-year deal and even though there is talk about money being freed up to pay high-level assistants, they are going to be hard to find in that scenario.
Don Brown is going to be gone. That’s one of those things that is pretty much known and expected at this point. Josh Gattis could be gone too.
So now, Harbaugh will be heading into basically a make or break season with possibly two new coordinators? The change has been needed and defense isn’t as tough a transition as offense, but still, those things take time.
And who knows, Harbaugh may be miffed about the money or maybe he feels like Manuel went back on his word. But I would think long and hard before accepting this contract, because when you look at it, you feel like it’s almost designed for Jim to fail.
Kirk Herbstreit said some really dumb things recently about Michigan football trying to duck Ohio State, but he had a point during the Wisconsin game when he talked about all the leadership at a university needing to be on the same page — the coach, AD and President.
They certainly are in Columbus — Ann Arbor, not so much.
To me, this just feels like a half measure, one that almost feels designed to tempt Harbaugh to take an NFL job and rid Michigan of the problem.
But as I have said before, there is a risk to firing Harbaugh. He won nine games four times in five seasons and what if Michigan struggles to reach that level with a new coach, while a fired Harbaugh re-invents himself in the NFL?
And as much as some of us like Matt Campbell or Luke Fickell or whoever else, there is no sure thing out there. How do we know? Because Harbaugh was Michigan’s sure thing or was supposed to be anyway.
He was supposed to be our Urban Meyer or Nick Saban and in the first two seasons, even in the fourth until the 62-point debacle, it seemed like he still could be.
Now that feels like a pipe dream. Of course, there is hope, especially with five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy coming and maybe that’s why Manuel wants to give Harbaugh another shot too.
Yes, he hasn’t been good enough against Ohio State or at getting Michigan to a championship level, but maybe one ugly season during a pandemic isn’t enough to let him go.
Harbaugh has talked about betting on himself and in some ways, I hope he does. Maybe he will get the old fire and defiance back.
All I know is that Harbaugh was once thought to be one of the best football coaches on the planet and I don’t believe he suddenly lost the ability to coach.
But if he really believes in himself that much, he shouldn’t worry so much about the money. Take the deal, get to work and prove to everyone why you should be at Michigan until you retire.