Tuesday, December 30, 2014


The Good and the Bad of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan

By all accounts, San Francisco 49ers' coach Jim Harbaugh is going to be the new coach at the University of Michigan.  He has been very successful in the pros (and before that at Stanford), and his salary will be about $8 million a year, by far the highest in college football.  There is good news and bad news with this.

First, it is a great hire for Michigan, which is Harbaugh's alma mater.  Harbaugh is a proven fixer-upper who gets teams competitive within a few seasons.  He is a strong recruiter and runs a clean program (based on the experience at Stanford).  Michigan very much needs the kind of strong personality that Harbaugh represents, and it helps a lot that he is a "Michigan man" in terms of being accepted at the University.  It's also great news for the Big Ten, which can't continue to hobble along with mediocre programs at so many traditional powerhouses, like Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State.  

The downside is this: $8 million dollars is crazy money for a University employee.  You could pay for 50 full professors for that price-- three or four whole departments at a big school like Michigan.  Because other coaches have contracts tied to the highest-paid coach in the country, the price of many other programs are about to go way up.  That would make sense if those programs made money, but relatively few do so.  They siphon money off of the University, even as the football players are increasingly segregated from the rest of the University (at Baylor, the athletes just got their own "nutrition center" so they won't have to eat dorm food).  

At some point, football needs to be put back in proportion.  Don't expect ESPN to do it.  At some point, academic leaders will have to step up and restore the balance of sports and the University's core purpose.


I'm curious to see what college sports will be like in ten years. As long as we all keep watching, somebody's going to get paid...a lot. Sounds like some accountants are also getting a good slice of the pie.
So, it looks like the early reports were wrong-- Harbaugh's pay will be a lot ($5 million-ish), but not the highest in college football.
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