Michigan playing dangerous game of contract chicken with Jim Harbaugh


On MSN-Sportsnaut, reporter Jesse Reed, offers his opinion to the dilemma facing the Michigan Wolverines.  It is human tendency when all goes bad to blame the coach when in fact a coach can’t complete the pass, or make the block, or kick the field goal…the players have to execute.  Here’s his report:

The Michigan football program is perplexing with Jim Harbaugh running the show, and the university’s apparent unwillingness to address a contract extension only magnifies this further.

The big picture: Harbaugh signed a seven-year deal with Michigan when he joined the program in December of 2014, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football.

Since then, he’s failed to live up the lofty expectations that accompanied him after his Super Bowl run with the San Francisco 49ers boosted his stock.

The issue: The university has yet to come to any agreement on a contract extension with Harbaugh, who is set to enter his sixth year leading the football program.

This is highly unusual, according to Rainer Sabin of the Detroit Free Press: “It defies the norms in a profession where head coaches have their contracts routinely lengthened to create a perception of security.”

Right now, there is no sense of security in Ann Arbor as it relates to Harbaugh’s tenure as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

“The optics of multi-year extensions help programs recruit players and staffers who want to know the man in charge will be around for a while,” Sabin wrote, putting a spotlight on the big, glaring issue.

Most programs extend their head coaches on a regular basis, if things are going well. That’s standard practice. But it’s not part of what’s happening at Michigan with Harbaugh. It’s impacting recruiting, too. Per 247 Sports, Michigan ranks 10th nationally at this time for the 2020 recruiting class, and zero five-star recruits have committed as of this writing.

The elephant in the room: Perhaps Michigan’s unwillingness to make a further commitment to Harbaugh stems from his one glaring failure — win the big games.

  • Harbaugh is 0-5 against Ohio State, and this is the biggest sin a Michigan coach can commit.
  • Harbaugh is 1-4 in bowl games.
  • Harbaugh is 2-11 against top-10 teams.

Michigan is an elite, blue-blood program. Or, at least that’s historically what this program has been. During Harbaugh’s tenure, though, it’s been nothing more than a pretty good program that tends to melt down at the worst possible time.

The bottom line: Harbaugh’s time at Michigan may be coming to an end soon.

The university has done itself no favors by dragging things out with his contract to this point. It’s quite possible that by doing this the Wolverines will experience a lagging letdown effect should Harbaugh end up leaving in the next year or two without ever having landed an extension.

Perception is everything. Michigan should have made a bold move to either dump Harbaugh and his bad big-game record after the season, or it should have made him “the guy” for the future with an extension already.

Staying in the middle only muddles the situation more, and it could end up hurting the program long term.

  • Yarbarker
  • 02/04/20
  • Jesse Reed