Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan contract scenario is as unusual as he’s

From teaching shirtless at satellite tv for pc camps to showing in Decide Judy’s gallery to sleeping on the house of a recruit, Jim Harbaugh has remained persistently weird. In a soccer world outlined by conformity, he’s lengthy been a proud outlier.

As Michigan’s followers and directors alternately expertise and endure Yr 6 of the Jim Harbaugh Period, the scenario round Harbaugh’s contract stands out.

Harbaugh is the one Energy 5 coach with lower than two years remaining on his contract. Few even have lower than three. With a profitable proportion and a popularity that ought to have earned him an extension way back, Harbaugh as a substitute is inexplicably headed towards the top of his contract.

“That simply doesn’t occur in school soccer,” an trade supply mentioned of Harbaugh’s contract scenario. “Nobody coaches to the final yr of their deal in school. They’re both fired or prolonged.”

Practically 14 months stay earlier than Harbaugh’s contractual time at Michigan runs out. And even by his requirements for weird, this contract scenario is an outlier. Harbaugh stays on his authentic Michigan contract, one {that a} coach profitable 72 % of his video games would have prolonged not less than for optical functions.  

However now right here’s the issue. Harbaugh appeared to cross swords with Michigan’s president, Mark Schlissel, through the pandemic. And that’s who in the end should determine whether Harbaugh is worth $8 million annually, the quantity he was reportedly scheduled to make this season previous to a 10 % COVID-19 pay reduce. 

It stays unlikely Michigan would hearth Harbaugh, even when they flop this season as many across the Massive Ten are predicting. He’s gone 47-18 and completed ranked in 4 of his 5 seasons. However the lingering contract uncertainty dovetails with an rising feeling that Harbaugh has typically underperformed at Michigan. The present roster and recruiting trajectory don’t level to Michigan altering weight lessons anytime quickly.

Then there’s Harbaugh, who has lengthy did not play good along with his superiors, which manifested itself at each Stanford and in San Francisco.  

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has two years left on his deal, says he was near a contract extension earlier than dealing with the pandemic turned a precedence. (AP)

Harbaugh’s prior monitor document is that he’s so day-to-day unusual, awkward interpersonally and ambivalent towards authority that he ultimately wears out his welcome. Harbaugh appeared to antagonize Schlissel during the pandemic along with his vocal calls for to play after Schlissel voted in opposition to it. Harbaugh took half in a protest that put scrutiny on his relationship and lack of communication with the varsity president. 

That led to this doozy of a stay-in-your-lane quote from Schlissel, an immunologist by background, to The Michigan Each day: “Within the occasion of the best way to preserve our student-athletes secure, that’s far more of a medical determination and it’s far more of a college accountability than it’s a soccer coach’s determination.” 

Whereas Schlissel did say he thought-about Harbaugh a pal, that quote doesn’t sound like a boss able to dish out one other $eight million yearly throughout a pandemic. Schlissel mentioned he and Harbaugh “come at issues in numerous methods,” which is an understatement.

The connection with Harbaugh at Michigan isn’t practically as poisonous because the one he brewed with the 49ers. However from the brass to the fan base, the infallibility that Harbaugh has introduced with him upon his arrival in 2014 has light.

Harbaugh has no-showed in sufficient huge video games — particularly in opposition to Ohio State — that the specter of him reviving Michigan right into a nationwide title contender has subsided. In Harbaugh’s 5 seasons, Michigan has but to succeed in the Massive Ten title sport, beat Ohio State or win a significant bowl sport. The ugliest numbers come constantly when the competitors stiffens, as Michigan is 2-12 in opposition to top-10 groups, 0-5 in opposition to Ohio State and has 4 straight bowl losses.

Across the league, Harbaugh has entered that awkward teaching netherworld the place rivals wouldn’t thoughts if he caught round. There’s a realization that others might do extra with the Michigan job than Harbaugh, who has confirmed an ambivalent recruiter, spotty with employees hires and an impotent quarterback developer. (Michigan additionally has not had a tailback drafted since Mike Hart in 2008, whereas Michigan State has had 4 since then. Jap Michigan had a tailback drafted extra lately.)  

Since Harbaugh’s arrival in 2015, Ohio State has lodged itself within the Massive Ten’s Ritz Carlton penthouse, whereas Michigan is staying in a Hyatt nook room. The most important fear for Michigan followers is that as a substitute of indicators of upward mobility, the Wolverines seem content material with the continental breakfast.  

Would Harbaugh be on this bizarre contractual purgatory if not for the COVID-19 pandemic? In all probability not. He mentioned in July that he had “larger fish to fry” than his personal contract and that he anticipated “an announcement someday.”

Three months later, there’s no announcement. Harbaugh made the third most — $7.5 million — of any school soccer coach final season. Since Harbaugh clearly isn’t in among the many sport’s top-five coaches, would he take a pay reduce for efficiency? His ego would wrestle with that.

Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to a name throughout a loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 30, 2019. (Leon Halip/Getty Photos)

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel didn’t return requires remark about Harbaugh’s uncommon contractual predicament. However this determination will seemingly go over his head anyway. The athletic division is going through some grim funds, because it has laid off 21 workers and faces a $26 million deficit.

Till some white smoke comes from Ann Arbor on Harbaugh’s contract, it is going to stay a speaking level. Most coaches would declare the quick contract hurts recruiting, however that doesn’t seem like a priority.

What’s outstanding about Michigan underneath Harbaugh is how this system has seemingly develop into snug with its second-tier standing within the Massive Ten. This has manifested itself in recruiting, the place Ohio State has solid a nationwide web to compete with Alabama, Clemson and LSU for the highest gamers. Michigan hasn’t even been in a position to enter a lot of these battles, by no means thoughts win them, as their recruiting technique continues to be considered as strikingly nonstrategic.

“If you’re attempting to beat Ohio State, you ought to be recruiting in opposition to Ohio State,” mentioned a recruiting director at a Energy 5 college. “Michigan is getting 4 or 5 studs a yr, when Ohio State is getting 20 studs a yr.”

Michigan does rank No. 7 in the recruiting rankings. However the Wolverines actually haven’t been aggressive with Ohio State on the recruiting path, very like on the sphere. Simply 5 of Michigan’s Class of 2021 commitments even had Ohio State provides, based on, and a supply advised Yahoo Sports activities that Ohio State would have taken simply a kind of 5.   

“It’s quite a lot of unbiased contracting, and it looks as if the spine of their crew is being constructed from the state of Massachusetts,” mentioned one other Energy 5 recruiting director. “They’re throwing darts across the board with no id. The place’s their recruiting space?”

No. 19 Michigan opens the season at No. 24 Minnesota on Oct. 24, a sport the place the Wolverines’ vulnerabilities could possibly be uncovered. If Michigan loses that sport, a 4-Four season would shortly develop into the expectation. Michigan has a brand new quarterback, 4 new starters on the offensive line and little dynamic talent at receiver. They’ve two of the nation’s greatest defensive ends however lack high quality defensive tackles and confirmed cowl corners. (Sophomore security Daxton Hill, who flipped from Alabama in a uncommon big-time recruiting win, is this system’s greatest younger participant.)

Every loss Michigan suffers this season will additional enlarge Harbaugh’s awkward predicament. For now, he’s overpaid, underperforming and his loudest supporters, fittingly, are Ohio State followers begging for him to be prolonged.

And that doubtlessly leaves the Michigan brass with a vexing query: Do you retain shelling out a penthouse wage to a coach who after 5 years hasn’t proven the flexibility to get there?

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