Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 18, 2014

The reported numbers are staggering: a reported $48 million over six years. How can Jim Harbaugh turn down an offer like that from Michigan to coach the Wolverines? It has to be tempting for Harbaugh, who would become the highest paid college coach in the nation. And he is exactly what Michigan needs: A steely-willed coach who oozes passion, confidence and knowledge.

Plus, Harbaugh could command a dictatorial regime in which there would be no meddling, no outside influences-just one loud, clear and singular voice: His own. Much like what Nick Saban brought to Alabama when he arrived in 2007 to rescue that listing giant and proceed to lead it to three national championships and a real shot at a fourth this season.


But I have a difficult time thinking that Harbaugh is motivated by money. This is a different guy, a hyper-competitive coach who is driven by tasting victory and winning championships. I never get the sense he compares his checkbook with others, not even Saban's $7 million annual salary.

In short, Harbaugh will get paid wherever he goes.

It?s easy to see why Michigan wants Harbaugh. The former star Wolverine quarterback (1983-86) went on to a strong NFL career (1987-2000). Then son of a football coach, Harbaugh then rose up the coaching ranks rapidly. Think about his career track: In 2004, Harbaugh was head coach at the University of San Diego, a non-scholarship program that competed in the Pioneer League.

Ten years later, he?s one of the brightest coaching stars in America, one who could become the most handsomely paid coach in the college ranks.

The timing seems perfect for Harbaugh, who made Stanford matter from 2007-10 before bolting for the NFL. In his fourth year with the San Francisco 49ers, he seems to have run his course after leading the team to two NFC title games and one Super Bowl. But this season the 49ers are 7-7 and San Francisco was eliminated from postseason consideration last week with a loss at Seattle. Worst of all: The rift between Harbaugh and the SF front office reportedly is vast.

Michigan? It needs a savior after seven dreary seasons-three under Rich Rodriguez (15-22 overall, 6-18 Big Ten) and the last four under Brady Hoke (31-20 overall, 18-14 Big Ten). This once-proud program hasn?t won the Big Ten since 2004. It needs a Leader with a capital "L," especially with Ohio State under Urban Meyer and Michigan State with Mark Dantonio in full beast mode and Penn State primed to take off behind James Franklin.

Michigan has become an afterthought, relegated to the postseason sidelines this year for third time since 2008. That never should have happened.

The Wolverines have sent out a multi-million dollar S.O.S. Will Harbaugh answer it? Or will he stay in the NFL, as many suspect he wants to do?

Michigan assuredly has other options beyond Harbaugh. Dan Mullen? Bob Stoops? Greg Schiano? Kyle Whittingham? But none are as tantalizing, intoxicating or exciting as the guy in the mock black turtle neck and khakis who already knows the words to ?The Victors.?

The ball is in Harbaugh?s court. This is going to be fascinating.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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