Earlier this month, Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh agreed on a contract extension through the 2025 season, that will pay him a base salary of $4 million.
This extension came as a shock to some after the team failed to post a winning record this past season, going 2-4. It marked the program’s first losing season since 2014 and arguably their worst campaign since their dreadful 3-9 season in 2008. Harbaugh seems to have earned the extension based on his existing resume prior to coming to Michigan, instead of his recent success at the head of the program.
The Wolverines have never beat Ohio State with Harbaugh as the head coach and have only managed to split their series with fellow rival Michigan State, going 3-3 in his tenure. Michigan has also never won the Big Ten Championship either with Harbaugh at the helm.
Harbaugh was brought in to bring Michigan football back to their glory days when Lloyd Carr was the head coach. However, the former college powerhouse has devolved into football mediocracy while rivals Ohio State and Michigan State thrive.
But what other choice did Michigan football have this offseason for head coach? Honestly, not that much.
In a year that was plagued by the global Covid-19 pandemic, there weren’t many exciting new head coaching options to choose from. The program decided to stick with Harbaugh and double down on their commitment with the four-year extension they gave him.
The four-year extension is the worst part of the deal. Harbaugh hasn’t produced the success that would warrant such a lengthy commitment. Even though the $4 million annual salary is budget-friendly for big name programs these days, it’s still more than Harbaugh truly deserves.
However, Harbaugh has managed some decent campaigns during his tenure as head coach at Michigan. He has produced three 10-win seasons, five bowl births, and been ranked in the preseason top 15 on four occasions. The team also finished the season ranked in the top 15 three times as well.
To say that Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan is a total failure would definitely not be true. However, it’s far from the success Michigan football fans expect to see and a far cry from what was expected of Harbaugh when he was named the programs head coach.
Michigan football’s fall from grace has been apparent ever since their upset loss to Appalachian State in 2007. Since then, they have cycled through three head coaches and have only ranked in the top ten of the AP’s final poll once. Worst of all, they have only managed to beat Ohio State once and are 3-17 overall against them since the turn of the century.
Even though Harbaugh hasn’t brought the success he was expected to, there’s not much else the program could really do about the situation. A smaller extension may have been the smarter option, but they’re committed to Harbaugh as their head coach. Harbaugh has the talent and tools necessary for success at Michigan, but only time will tell if he can actually pull it off this time.