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It’s time for Michigan to hand Jim Harbaugh a blank check

Amidst the rumors of Jim Harbaugh leaving for the NFL, Michigan football has one clear option: give Harbaugh a blank check.



Michigan football, recruiting, Bryce Underwood, No. 1 recruit
Nov 5, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh looks on against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Denver Broncos and is still entertaining other NFL offers. If Michigan football expects to retain its head coach heading into the 2023 football season, the Wolverines need to open their checkbook and pay Harbaugh what he deserves.

Jim Harbaugh is not paid what he is worth

When looking at how much Jim Harbaugh is paid, two things stick out like a sore thumb: Harbaugh is hardly top-10 in yearly salary, and he is not top-3 in his own division. There is speculation that a lot of Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL stems from his small paycheck at Michigan, and frankly, you cannot blame him.

Over the past two seasons, Jim Harbaugh has accumulated a 25-3 overall record, 19-1 Big Ten record, 23-1 regular season record, back-to-back wins over Ohio State, back-to-back Big Ten Championships, and back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances. To say Harbaugh is worth the money would be an understatement; in fact, the Wolverines should be in-store for another massive season in 2023.

That being said, Michigan football does not pay him what just about anyone else would. Jim Harbaugh is the 9th-highest-paid head coach in college football, and the fourth-highest in the Big Ten. In fact, in the Big Ten East alone, there are three head coaches making more money than Jim Harbaugh despite far worse results. It isn’t like U-M cannot afford to pay Harbaugh, either — the Wolverines are one of the richest football programs in the world.

Big Ten East coaches making more than Harbaugh

In Harbaugh’s own division — a division he has won three times since 2018 — Harbaugh is the fourth-highest paid head coach. Here are the head coaches paid more than Jim Harbaugh and his record against them this decade:

  1. James Franklin (Penn State), 2-1
  2. Ryan Day (Ohio State), 2-0
  3. Mel Tucker (Michigan State), 1-2

Additionally, since the start of the 2021 season, Jim Harbaugh has the best overall record, conference record, and back-to-back conference titles. If that wasn’t enough, here are the other five head coaches that are paid more than Jim Harbaugh:

  1. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M)
  2. Brian Kelly (LSU)
  3. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  4. Dabo Sweeny (Clemson)
  5. Nick Saban (Alabama)

Some of these are understandable — Nick Saban and Kirby Smart deserve to be top-2, and perhaps even Dabo Sweeny for his work at Clemson — but Harbaugh should be the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten (at least). If U-M expects to keep Harbaugh heading into next year, the school needs to get out its checkbook and give Harbaugh whatever he wants.