Jim Harbaugh likes to say college football fans don’t come to see the coaches, they come to see the players. “They don’t really come to see the administrators,” he said at media day on Saturday ahead of Michigan’s CFP national championship game against Washington on Monday at NRG Stadium. “That’s a myth.”
While Harbaugh’s comments ring true, he’s the biggest story surrounding the title game because there’s a good chance he’ll leave Michigan for the NFL after this game. When asked at media day whether Monday’s outcome will affect his decision to stay with the Wolverines or return to the NFL — where he hasn’t coached in nearly a decade — he declined to answer. “I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
When pressed further, Harbaugh was asked, “What is Michigan football going to look like in the future?” With stars such as J.J., McCarthy, Blake, Corum and Roman Wilson expected to go in the NFL Draft next spring, the Wolverines will be a completely different team in 2024.
According to multiple reports, Harbaugh has been offered a contract extension of 10 years and $125 million, but he has yet to sign it. He has also hired former NFL quarterback Don Yee as his agent, who has clients such as Tom Brady and current Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton. Yet, while Michigan football’s future is tied to Habaugh’s, he wouldn’t touch that topic.
“I’ll be happy to talk about it next week,” he said, “and I hope I have one. What about the future?
Would the NFL be a better spot for Jim Harbaugh?
To make matters even more interesting, Monday isn’t just the College Football Playoff championship game; it’s Black Monday, the first day following the NFL’s regular season finale when coaches are typically given their marching orders.
Harbaugh, who has said he has “unfinished business” in the NFL, has flirted with returning in the past few seasons.
But how does he view this week’s Rose Bowl and national championship hoopla compare to Super Bowl Week?
“It’s very similar,” Harbaugh said flatly. “It has that same feeling.”
There’s a certain level of silliness that comes with Super Bowl week, too. Fans can attend media days. Players interview each other. On Saturday, a dog trotted around and got lots of attention from fans and pets. It’s the same kind of silliness as Super Bowl week.
When he was the 49ers’ head coach in XLVII, Harbaugh recalled, “I had my Golden Retriever, Ben, and we went to the Super Bowl.”
When asked a few minutes later about the time-management differences between NFL and college coaching, Harbaugh said, “I don’t have that list right there.”
Keys for Michigan’s defense vs. Washington
One topic of particular interest to Harbaugh was the issue of revenue sharing for players. “There’s a saying that my dad used to use, my brother used to use, that we’re all in the same boat here,” he said. “That needs to change.” “It’s one thing to say that they’re getting nothing, but the billions of dollars that are being made, they are getting a very small percentage of that. They are getting the same money as I did in the ’80s. They are getting scholarships, room and board, books, tuition.”
Harbaugh believes that, given the rapid pace of change in the sport, the idea of revenue sharing can be made a reality. “We’ve seen the whole conference go down the drain,” he said, “if those things happen overnight, I’m not sure how the sausage is made, there are a lot of really smart people out there who know a lot of algorithms and economics, and the real problem is that there is no voice for these players.”
Harbaugh has made his feelings clear on this topic and will continue to make his views known at every opportunity. And, as he said, “maybe next week,” but right now, he’s focused on stopping Michigan’s opponent, Washington, and winning Michigan’s first national title since 1997.“The biggest thing for me is for every guy on this team, every player on this team, to have their families be able to say, ‘My son’s a national champion,’” Harbaugh said. “For my brother to have his grandparents, his relatives, his brothers and sisters be able to say that they’re a national champion,” he added. “I want my kids to know that their dad is a champion, and I want my wife and her husband to know that their husband is a champion. And what’s even better is that so many people get to benefit from it.”
I’m Laken Litman. I write about college football and college basketball for FOX Sports, and I’ve written about college football, basketball, and soccer for Sports Illustrated and USA Today. I’ve also written for Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Star. I’m the author of “Strong like a Woman,” set to be released in spring 2022 in honor of Title IX’s 50th anniversary. Follow me on Twitter: