Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Have Had 'Very Positive' Talks amid NFL Rumors, President Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2023

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31:  Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh runs onto the field before the VRBO Fiesta Bowl college football national championship semifinal game between the Michigan Wolverines and the TCU Horned Frogs on December 31, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With NFL rumors once again swirling around Jim Harbaugh, Michigan president Santo Ono tweeted on Thursday that the school was in talks with the head coach to retain his services.

Santa Ono @SantaJOno

I pleased to share that I have been having very positive and constructive conversations with our Athletic Director and Football Coach. Warde Manuel and I both want to see Jim Harbaugh stay as the head football coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBlue</a> 〽️

"I am in full support of President Ono's message to our fans and appreciate his support of me and the team," Harbaugh said in a statement, per the Michigan Football Twitter account.

On Tuesday, the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Harbaugh has "emerged as a top candidate" for the Denver Broncos' head-coaching vacancy and has been "weighing his NFL options in recent weeks."

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

From <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@gmfb</a>: More on Jim Harbaugh's interview with the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Broncos?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Broncos</a>, plus where things stand as the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Texans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Texans</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Panthers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Panthers</a> ramp up their searches. <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/eyABzf4Me4">pic.twitter.com/eyABzf4Me4</a>

Additionally, ESPN's Pete Thamel reported on Thursday that the Michigan head coach "has been engaged with the Broncos, who are underway on a process that should take more than a week to unfold."

The reasoning for making the jump now could be twofold.

Harbaugh is being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly committing a Level I violation by obstructing the NCAA during its investigation into Michigan allegedly holding practices with too many coaches on the field, observing practices from an unsanctioned video feed and potentially contacting two recruits during a COVID-19 dead period in the recruitment process, and he could be facing a multi-game suspension if found guilty.

Per Thamel, that in turn may make Michigan reticent to "issue him a new contract until there's some clarity in the current NCAA case, according to sources."

While Harbaugh still made $7 million this past season, a more than healthy figure, it trailed by Michigan State's Mel Tucker—who led rival Michigan State to a 5-7 record this past year—by about $2.5 million.

In the NFL, getting a top-of-the-market deal would be more likely, in other words. That could make this offseason an enticing moment for the former San Francisco 49ers' head coach to return to the NFL, where he went 44-19-1 in four seasons, led the Niners to three playoff appearances and made one Super Bowl.

So it wouldn't be a surprise if this latest smoke about a potential Harbaugh return to the NFL was very real. If he still has that itch, now might be a logical moment—at least from a financial perspective—to scratch it.