What seemed like mere fantasy and delusion not long ago is becoming a reality, as multiple sources are suggesting Jim Harbaugh will accept the offer to become the head coach of Michigan once the NFL season is over and his job with the San Francisco 49ers is done.
ESPN, through two different sources, have said Harbaugh has already signed a contract and will take the job on December 30. Other sources suggest there’s a verbal agreement between Harbaugh and Jim Hackett. In any case, after reportedly being torn about the decision to leave the NFL, whether it’s with the 49ers or anyone else and especially the Bay Area where he has spent his time along with his family since 2007, it looks like Harbaugh has made his decision, which is to return to his Alma Mater.
Harbaugh hasn’t gone through a losing season since 2008, when he was still in the process of rebuilding Stanford. He’s 7-7 this season with the 49ers, with plenty of internal organizational problems and on-field issues have ended his streak of three consecutive playoff appearances, in all of them taking the team to at least the conference championship game. The 49ers made the Super Bowl once under Harbaugh, losing to the Baltimore Ravens.
He won 20 games in his last two years with Stanford, taking them to a bowl game twice, including the Orange Bowl following a 11-1 season in 2010. Stanford, with Andrew Luck at quarterback, crushed Virginia Tech 40-12 to win the BCS Bowl, while Harbaugh left to the NFL and the 49ers shortly after, with Stanford finishing ranked #4 in the nation and carried on to have a lot of success under Davis Shaw until this season.
Michigan are hungry for that kind of success. They won’t be in a bowl game this season which resulted in Brady Hoke being fired. It was a turbulent season for the Wolverines overall, with their Athletic Director changing and other administration changes regarding the school’s athletic programs. They haven’t won a national championship since 1997 and have struggled finding someone to generate consecutive success since Lloyd Carr stepped down. Both Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke have been run out of town.
Harbaugh will become the highest paid head coach in college football should he accept the offer, earning $49 million over the next six seasons ($8.17 million a year). It’s not clear how much of that includes bonuses. It took a record offer in order for him to leave the NFL and move his family from the Bay Area, although no official word has come out from Harbaugh or the university.
Rebuilding means it’s going to take time for Michigan to get back on their horse and challenge for the conference title. Recruiting has never been the problem at Michigan, even under Hoke and Rodriguez. Developing the talent and creating balance between offense and defense has been. A terrible record 2-12 against Ohio State since 2001 and 1-6 against Michigan State since 2008 is also something Harbaugh will be expected to rectify and quickly.