Tons of people worked together to bring Jim Harbaugh to Michigan in 2014. Back channels were worked, boosters and powerful influencers were making calls and moving things around and the planets basically aligned in terms of the timeline to allow Harbaugh to become Michigan's head coach. Now, many of those things are operating in an opposite fashion.
Depending on where you get your news from you're hearing different things. National pundit Mike Florio has reported that Harbaugh is eyeing an NFL return. Of course, he's done that every year since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor and has obviously been wrong every time. Local insider Sam Webb has said that he thinks Harbaugh is leaning toward a revamped extension. Webb is extremely plugged in but even he doesn't seem to know anything for sure. My former coworker and long time reporter Chris Balas also seems to think an extension is coming, but is apprehensive due to the lack of an announcement or anything concrete from sources he's developed over nearly 20 years. Former Wolverine All-American and current Michigan radio personality Jon Jansen had to shoot down rumors that he confirmed an extension was simply waiting to be signed.
What that all means to me, is that no one knows what's going on.
Of course, I have my own sources as well, and a lot of them seem to have really good information, but nothing concrete, just like everyone else.
"The holdup and concern right now is that Jim may not have an NFL job," one source said. "He's having a hard time finding an NFL suitor and he's not going to leave without saving face in the form of an NFL job. The desire is to part ways but it has to be right. People at Michigan are hoping that the NFL comes calling to bail them out of this situation."
Another source is saying something similar, but expanded on the idea of Harbaugh returning with some pretty strict "requirements" in place.
"Jim's not going to be fired this year," the source said. "He's been told to either take an NFL job or that he'll have one final year to right the ship. It feels like no one really wants him back but also doesn't want to fire him. It's a very strange situation.
"I wouldn't expect to hear anything formal until after the NFL season is over. Michigan seems content to let it all play out. It really comes down to whether Jim wants to make a move now or gamble that he can fix all of the glaring issues in one season. This would truly be his last chance."
One major problem with Harbaugh attempting to right the ship is that he'll likely have to do so with new assistants, and luring any worth their salt seems very difficult because they'd be leery to come to Ann Arbor right now.
"Michigan may have a hard time filling coaching spots with proven assistants because the reputation in Ann Arbor is of a toxic situation," another source said. "Coaches also understand that Harbaugh might be operating on a year to year contingency, removing the type of stability they’re looking for.”
After talking to a lot of different people around the situation it all seems even more bizarre. Harbaugh apparently wants out. Michigan apparently wants Harbaugh out. Yet nothing has happened because of optics and pride. Of course there is the buyout hurdle as well, but it seems like if both parties want the same thing, something could be worked out.
Instead, we're all waiting with bated breath.