With it looking increasingly unlikely a football game is played this weekend between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, all eyes now turn to the contract status of head coach Jim Harbaugh. It has been no secret that this year has been a bottoming out for his tenure, but we seem to be inching closer and closer to a resolution between he and the program on what the future is.
Where we stand today, Harbaugh is currently under contract through the end of the 2021 season. Heading into this year, he was the only Power Five head coach without more than two years left on his deal. An extension was said to be on the table back in February, but was put on the backburner with the dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on college sports hanging over it.
Harbaugh and his staff have been operating as if they will be back next year with a lot of effort being put into preserving what currently ranks as the No. 9 recruiting class in the country in the 2021 class. The early signing period begins on Dec. 16 and runs through Dec. 18 and for several members of the class, they have only reaffirmed their commitments in recent weeks. There could be a few guys that use the uncertainty as a way to look elsewhere — with four-star top-100 wideout Xavier Worthy among them — but for the most part things seem fairly stable there.
So what gives? Is Harbaugh coming back? Might Michigan be working its options behind the scenes to replace him?
Any rumor that Harbaugh’s agent or camp is exploring anything has been debunked quickly by the fact he does not have an agent or representation. The Harbaugh camp is Harbaugh and the local media has much more of a pulse on the situation than the national pundits do. The NFL “rumors” have been a yearly thing since Harbaugh was hired and that is something we have gotten used to. So that’s the end of that discussion for now.
A rumor had surfaced last week that Harbaugh was telling prospects on the trail he was not sure if he was coming back next season or not, which was refuted by the man himself via Sam Webb of The Michigan Insider. Another plot thread emerged over the weekend when Chris Balas of The Wolverine posted that a three-year extension is rumored to be in the works, which was updated on Monday ($).
Former Michigan lineman and local radio host Jon Jansen responded to a tweet that said he had reported on the air that the Harbaugh extension was done and said that was falsely cited to him. The rumors he is referring to, whether a parting of the ways is happening or if an extension is in place, remain unclear to this point.
Sorry Ron. Not true. I said all the rumors are not true. https://t.co/lTp1KgRJad— Jon Jansen (@JonJansen77) December 7, 2020
Author John U. Bacon, who is as respected and connected as it comes in the Michigan sphere, posted on Monday morning that he expects a resolution to come soon one way or another, likely this week.
To answer your follow-up: my sources are telling me probably not today, but very likely this week.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) December 7, 2020
This is as up to date as we are at the moment as to where everything stands. While we do not have anything earth-shattering to add to the news cycle here, the idea that the wind is blowing in the direction of an extension has been echoed by a few people we trust that has been right on these things in the past. This would also come with some major changes to the staff, which is not all that surprising.
The issue with this is that if the plan was always to extend, COVID-impacted year or not, why is this deal not done and signed? That athletic director Warde Manuel and the administration let it get to this point so much that perhaps not even the man in charge knows what his future is a week before the early signing period begins is borderline malpractice, pandemic or not.
Manuel has been quiet on the topic, and if there is truly nothing to report yet that is understandable. But the closer we get to the end of this season without a deal in place, the more it feels likely that something might be happening here. Harbaugh is not lying when he says he does not expect to be anywhere else next season, but Michigan might have more pause. At the very least, it seems there might be some details in the contract that are being altered.
If there’s an extension to be signed, it might be in Michigan and Harbaugh’s best interest to sign it. If Manuel is pondering a change, it might be time to pull the trigger (I’m on the record of saying they should). The option to sit around and wait is over, as each passing day adds more uncertainly to the future of Michigan football.