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Report: Jim Harbaugh's Next Michigan Contract Likely to Include Base Salary Cut

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2020

FILE  - In this Nov. 30, 2019, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh calls a timeout in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan has been good, not great, under coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh's sixth season in charge of college football's winningest program, which he starred for as a quarterback three-plus decades ago, is expected to follow the pattern. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)
Tony Ding/Associated Press

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and head football coach Jim Harbaugh have reportedly begun "preliminary" discussions about a contract extension.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman reported Saturday the talks have centered around a cut to Harbaugh's base salary paired with an increase in performance-based incentives:

FOX College Football @CFBONFOX

"They're going to look at a lower base salary with big incentives." @BruceFeldmanCFB on Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's contract extension https://t.co/dApVX7O61r

Harbaugh ranked fourth among college football head coaches with a base salary of just over $8 million for the 2020 season, according to the USA Today database.

Feldman noted there are questions about whether the former NFL quarterback's "ego" would allow him to accept a pay cut, however, and the contract talk comes amid rumors of a possible departure from U-M.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported last week Harbaugh is "believed to be eyeing a return to the NFL as a head coach" with sources saying "teams are doing their homework" on him.

The 56-year-old Ohio native was named the NFL coach of the year in 2011 after guiding the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record during his first year with the team. The Niners reached the Super Bowl the following season, losing to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship Game in 2013.

He left San Francisco after an 8-8 record in 2014 and took over at Michigan, his alma mater, in 2015. He'd previously been a head coach at the collegiate level with San Diego (2004-06) and Stanford (2007-10).

Harbaugh had guided the Wolverines to five straight winning seasons, but they've lost their last four bowl games, lost all five games against rival Ohio State and have posted a 2-4 record during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign.

Now it sounds like his future in Ann Arbor is in question, especially if the school takes a hardline stance on the pay cut in contract negotiations.

It's worth noting the Michigan-based Detroit Lions will be conducting a search for a new head coach in the offseason after firing Matt Patricia. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans are also operating with interim head coaches, and more jobs are likely to come available over the next few months.

He'd also likely attract interest from other college programs if he decides to leave Big Blue.

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