Why Jim Harbaugh and Michigan recommitted now, and what comes next

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

  • ESPN staff writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • Graduated from Central Michigan

Jim Harbaugh isn’t leaving Michigan. At least not yet.

Despite Harbaugh’s worst season as a head coach at any level, he signed an extension that runs through the 2025 season, athletic director Warde Manuel announced Friday. Harbaugh had one year left on his initial contract with his alma mater, which paid the coach slightly over $8 million in 2020.

Harbaugh’s new contract will pay him a base salary of $4 million in 2021, which will increase to $4.426 million in 2025. He can earn a maximum bonus of $3.475 million in each year of the contract, including $1 million bonuses for winning the Big Ten championship and CFP national championship, and $500,000 bonuses for winning the Big Ten East Division and reaching the College Football Playoff.

This season, the Wolverines finished at 2-4 after their last three games were canceled. COVID-19 concerns nixed Michigan’s Dec. 5 game against Maryland, then a Dec. 12 game against Ohio State, which opened as a 30-point favorite. As a result, Harbaugh’s record against Ohio State remains 0-5, as Michigan last won The Game in 2011, when he was coaching the San Francisco 49ers. On Dec. 15, the team called off a Champions Week game at Iowa.

Harbaugh’s future at Michigan has been a hot topic for months, especially with so little job security beyond 2020. Now Michigan has committed to him, at least for a little longer, despite the team’s poor play.

Here’s a look at why Michigan went this route, what it really means and how Harbaugh can engineer a turnaround in 2021.

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