Jim Harbaugh employed one of President Donald Trump's oft-used phrases Saturday, telling reporters rumors that Michigan offered him a lifetime contract were "fake news" after the Wolverines' 31-20 loss to Ohio State.
Harbaugh, 53, went 8-4 during his third regular season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are 28-10 under him but have failed to compete for Big Ten championships, finishing third or worse in the East division each year.
Fox Sports analyst Brady Quinn said Michigan was working on a lifetime contract for Harbaugh earlier this week. The veteran coach's career has followed a pattern of short stops, as he left San Diego (three), Stanford (four) and the San Francisco 49ers (four) after four or fewer seasons.
While Harbaugh is a Michigan alum who came back to a hero's welcome, the results have not matched the lofty expectations. The Wolverines finished inside the Top 15 of the Associated Press poll each of Harbaugh's first two seasons but will likely finish 2017 unranked. A Sept. 23 back injury to quarterback Wilton Speight led to a massive offensive downturn, and Michigan subsequently lost to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
"I wish we could have won, sent the seniors out with a victory," Harbaugh told reporters after Saturday's loss to the rival Buckeyes. "They gave everything they had and played extremely hard. Great bunch of guys. Great bunch of guys to coach. Great football character, good character."
There have been murmurings Harbaugh could leave Michigan for the Chicago Bears, a franchise for which he played during his professional career and has great affinity for. The Bears have slogged their way through two-plus seasons under head coach John Fox and seem likely to make a change this offseason.
Given that almost no lifetime contracts are given out in major college sports—especially to guys Harbaugh's age—it was always unlikely Quinn's report would turn out true. A contract extension could be coming to give him additional job security, but lifetime deals are relics.