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Column: Michigan needs to do something about the Harbaugh/NFL rumors, and quickly

The longer this drags on, the worse it becomes.

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Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

From the moment the Fiesta Bowl ended and the season was over for the Michigan Wolverines, someone out there wondered if that was Jim Harbaugh’s final game coaching his alma mater.

In fact, a lot of people wondered that, especially those in the sports media.

Despite Harbaugh saying prior to the College Football Playoff he would be “enthusiastically” coaching the Wolverines in 2023, it wasn’t a story constantly being written about, talked about on TV or even discussed on social media.

Fast forward to present day and everyone in the media is writing a Harbaugh/NFL rumor story, reinforcing a ton of discussion on TV and on social media. The worst of it all came yesterday when The Athletic published a story containing one quote from an unnamed source claiming it would be a “done deal” if Harbaugh got offered an NFL coaching job.

All a story like that does is hurt Michigan’s football program. It hurts recruiting, it makes the current coaches and players wonder if they’ll have Harbaugh as their head coach next season. Simply put, it isn’t good, and it’s grown quite tiresome.

When it comes to recruiting, the 2024 class has a chance to be really special for the Wolverines. They already have four commits in the class, with three of them being four-star prospects. More highly ranked players — including five-star quarterback Jadyn Davis — have very strong interest in the program following two straight blowouts of Ohio State and Big Ten Championship Game victories. It isn’t out of the question Michigan reels in a top-10, or even better, class in 2024.

Last year when Harbaugh interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings head coach job, all the recruiting momentum the Wolverines had suddenly stopped. It hurt so much that they lost out on several highly ranked recruits in the 2023 class, and they never made up ground with those recruits. Michigan can’t afford to have that happen again in the 2024 class.

Something needs to happen fast. Whether it’s a contact extension, a public statement on Michigan football’s Twitter account, something that will prove Harbaugh isn’t leaving. The program, nor Harbaugh, should have to do this because of what he said last month, but no one remembers that story or those comments anymore. They need to do something soon. Real soon.

The best possible solution would be for athletic director Warde Manuel to break out the checkbook, throw it at Harbaugh and say “write it yourself.” Whatever he wants per year, give it to him. I’m sure money isn’t the top priority for Harbaugh — he has plenty of it and has always been more about working hard, competing at a high level and being respected by his peers — but to show that type of commitment would go a long way in getting him locked in for the foreseeable future.

Plus...would it really be unwarranted to give Harbaugh a blank check at this point? After taking a pay cut prior to the 2021 season, he subsequently took down Ohio State, won the Big Ten Championship and made the College Football Playoff two years consecutively. He has more than earned a long-term contract extension and being one of the top head coaches in college football. The man knows how to coach and would be wanted by any athletic director or NFL general manager seeking a head coach.

At the end of the day, we are no stranger to these rumors and stories popping up. It’s happened just about every offseason that Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor, especially last offseason. But there needs to be more urgency this time around.