There are a lot of positive things going on in the University of Michigan athletic department currently, but a lack of fan confidence in the direction of the football program looms like a dark cloud. Despite this, athletic director Warde Manuel and head coach Jim Harbaugh stayed committed to each other and worked out a contract extension this offseason.
The new deal, which trims Harbaugh’s base salary in half, led to some major changes on the coaching staff this offseason. In a lot of ways, this is year zero all over again for the program. Patience is going to be a virtue, but Manuel says that football will be held to the same standard that the rest of the programs in the department are.
“Obviously, I am willing to be patient but he and I understand that we need to win,” Manuel said in a roundtable with the media on Tuesday. “This is Michigan. Nobody wants to win more than Jim in football and me overall. We want success. Did I put a number to his first year (of the new contract)? The answer is no. I want him to move forward and build this and continue to drive us to have success in football. Again, nobody wants to have more success in football at the University of Michigan than Jim Harbaugh.
“So for me, he has the flexibility. He has that space to continue to drive that success here, whether it’s on staff, his staff or recruiting. It’s not a short-term play for me. We’ll see how the season plays out and make decisions accordingly. This is something that I want to work and he wants to work. There are no minimum or maximum numbers. And I don’t, with my coaches, interact in that way.”
Manuel said that there was no plan B this offseason and the expectation was that Harbaugh would always return. Both men discussed some of the proposed changes to the staff and the direction this operation was set to go.
The message has been clear. They want to keep building this and doing it “the right way.”
“Let’s put this in context: do it the right way,” Manuel said. “Academics is important. All that is wrapped into that. Sometimes, to myself, I sound like a broken record. Because all that is really important to me. But the bottom line is, once all that’s done, that’s sort of an expectation. And Jim’s done a remarkable job on that front with our students and athletes. So, from my standpoint, the last thing we need to do is to have great success and win games individually and to win championships. That’s the goal every year. Every year.
“I’m excited about it and knowing what the moves have been, the conversations that have been had and how Jim is working with the staff and the student-athletes to make all of that happen.”
Manuel is self-aware about some of the problems that have plagued the football program. He knows that the only way out of the situation they find themselves in currently is to win games. His head coach knows it, too.
That’s the standard they will be judged by.
“Win. Win. Every time we hit the field, our goal is to win,” Manuel said. “I want, for him, and I want for our student-athletes to win championships in football and in every sport that we have. To compete and win championships. And, that’s it.
“That’s his No. 1 goal. I don’t need to say, ‘Hey Jim, you know our No. 1 goal is to win.’ I don’t need to tell him that. He understands that and is committed to it and the student-athletes are and the staff are working really hard to do that.”