Michigan’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh, is facing a significant decision as the university presents him with a lucrative contract extension that would make him the highest-paid coach in college football. However, this deal comes with a significant catch—it would prevent Harbaugh from pursuing an NFL coaching job for the 2024 season, as reported by NFL Network.
The proposed contract extension spans ten years and offers a staggering $125 million, surpassing Dabo Swinney’s $115 million contract, which held the record as the most substantial in college football. In addition to the long-term deal, Michigan has also put forward a shorter-term $11 million contract.
During his nine-year tenure at Michigan, Harbaugh has achieved remarkable success, transforming the Wolverines into a national powerhouse. Under his leadership, Michigan has experienced a resurgence, securing its fourth top-10 finish and entering the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed. Notably, Harbaugh has become the first Michigan coach since Gary Moeller in 1990-92 to claim three consecutive Big Ten championships.
Despite his achievements in college football, Harbaugh has consistently expressed interest in NFL coaching positions. Speculation about his potential NFL return has been rampant, particularly during Michigan’s ascent to national prominence. After the 2021 season, Harbaugh actively pursued a role with the Minnesota Vikings. Although he was not hired, Harbaugh vowed to the Detroit Free Press that it would be his last attempt to secure an NFL position.
However, one year later, Harbaugh engaged with the Denver Broncos regarding their coaching vacancy, although the position ultimately went to Sean Payton. If Harbaugh declines the contract extension, he will remain a potential candidate for NFL coaching jobs in 2024.
Adding complexity to the situation, Harbaugh has faced off-field challenges at Michigan this year. He endured two suspensions, one self-imposed and one imposed by the Big Ten, for separate rule-breaking incidents and was limited to coaching only six regular-season games. Recently, Michigan received a notice of allegations related to illegal coaching and recruiting practices during the COVID-19 dead period. Additionally, the NCAA is investigating Michigan and former analyst Connor Stalions over allegations of illegal in-person recruiting and sign stealing.
As Michigan prepares for the 2023 season’s conclusion, the team faces the departure of several key contributors, including running back Blake Corum, top receivers Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson, all five starting offensive linemen, and at least seven defensive starters. While the Wolverines enter the College Football Playoff as early favorites, they anticipate a rebuilding phase in 2024.
Michigan’s next challenge comes in the form of a showdown with No. 4 Alabama at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day at 5 p.m. ET. The victor will secure a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship, facing either No. 3 Texas or No. 2 Washington on Monday, January 8.