Even as the college coaching carousel has stopped spinning for the moment, the NFL could soon see a bevy of coaches hit the market as the season winds down.
Several jobs are widely speculated to attract new coaches — Chicago, Jacksonville and Las Vegas, among others. It will likely be a lot of the same names getting thrown around and considered. But there’s one coach, who has been out of the league for several years, who could see his name pop up on radars.
As first reported by The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, fresh off a College Football Playoff berth, could be poised to leave his alma mater and return to the NFL, where he coached the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth.
Sources from both from the NFL side, and at Michigan, tell The Athletic that Jim Harbaugh might be tempted to leave the Wolverines to return to the NFL: https://t.co/BvGNjBZmdv
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 4, 2022
The Wolverines are coming off their best season of Harbaugh’s tenure. They went 12-2 with a berth to the College Football Playoff, as well as a Big Ten title and finally got an ever-elusive win over Ohio State.
Still, despite that success and despite this potentially being just the beginning of Michigan’s resurgence under Harbaugh, he is rumored to consider bolting for the NFL. Sporting News takes a look at the contract implications of that move:
Jim Harbaugh contract details
Harbaugh’s currently under contract to the Wolverines until 2025 after signing an extension in January 2021. At the time, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said he was “willing to be patient” and that the contract was a longterm play.
Harbaugh’s contract included a reduction in pay and became more incentives-driven, taking him out of the upper echelon of Big Ten coaches in base salary. Harbaugh made $4 million in base salary in 2021, according to the Detroit Free-Press, which will increase incrementally if he sees out the duration of his contract through 2025:
- 2022: $4,101,850
- 2023: $4,206,756
- 2024: $4,314,808
- 2025: $4,426,102
Harbaugh didn’t seem worried by it, professing “it’s just money.” As it turns out, neither Manuel nor Wolverine fans had to wait long for the restructured contract to pay dividends. Here are the breakdowns of Harbaugh’s incentives, in decreasing order in terms of value. He hit three benchmarks — Big Ten East division championship, Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff berth — to earn an additional $2 million in incentives on top of his $4 million base salary.
- CFP championship: $1 million
- Big Ten championship: $1 million
- CFP semifinal berth: $500,000
- Big Ten East championship: $500,000
- New Year’s Day 6 berth: $200,000
- APR-related incentives: $150,000
- National Coach of the Year: $75,000
- Big Ten Coach of the Year: $50,000
Notably, Harbaugh donated his $2 million in incentives back to Michigan to help employees impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Regardless, if he does in fact leave for the NFL, he would not garner a significant buyout. It started at $2 million in 2021, and reduces to $1.5 million in 2022. It will continue decreasing by $500,000 every year until 2025.
Jim Harbaugh record at Michigan
Harbaugh has certainly won at Michigan, even if he didn’t win the biggest games. He was 49-22 entering this season, with two appearances in New Years’ 6 bowls and four times ranked inside the top 25 to end the season.
Now, he’s 61-24 with a much more padded resume thanks to wins over Ohio State, a Big Ten title and playoff berth. It’s his third stint as a college coach, with previous stops at San Diego and Stanford, where he led the Cardinal to a No. 4 ranking and 12-1 record in his final season.
This was also the fourth time in Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor that the Wolverines have won 10-plus games.