To heck with throwing obscene amounts of money at college football coaches.
If you really want to break through, give your guy a pay cut.
Two weeks ago, how many people gave Michigan a chance of beating Ohio State? Except for people who wear maize and blue. . . not many.
But now, here comes Jim Harbaugh, guiding Michigan to its first College Football Playoff berth, 11 months after he signed an incentive-laden contract extension that cut his salary in half. On top of his base salary of $4 million for his base salary, incentives could add $3.475 million.
Harbaugh already has qualified for $2 million of that—$500,000 for wining the Big Ten East, $1 million for winning the conference championship and $500,000 for securing a playoff berth. Winning the national championship would be worth another $1 million.
Harbaugh has pledged to turn all of his bonus money back to the athletic department, to be shared by department employees who took 5 to 10 percent pay reductions due to the pandemic.
After beating Iowa, the Wolverines were crowing about doubters who had pegged Michigan for a 6-6 season and gave it a 2 percent chance of winning the Big Ten.
Michigan made hash out of that. And now it will be able to play the underdog card against Georgia, which is favored by about a touchdown—the same margin oddsmakers had favored the Dawgs by against Alabama.
Let’s just say it right now: Harbaugh, who took a lot of heat for under-achieving in his first six seasons at Michigan, is deserving of all the praise coming his way.
These are heady times in the state of Michigan. Mel Tucker is richly deserving of his Big Ten Coach of the Year award. Taking a team that seemed likely to have a losing season to a 10-2 record and a New Year’s Six bowl puts him in the national coach-of-the-year discussion.
And yet, for Harbaugh, who was on the ropes, to get up and beat an Ohio State team that had looked awfully good. . . that’s pretty remarkable, too.
The ``cut-his-pay-instead-of-firing-him’’ approach probably won’t become a trend, even if Scott Frost, who took a similar deal, turns around frustrated Nebraska’s next year.
But even those who don’t Harbaugh need to admit, if they are honest, that he fashioned a tough and determined winner this fall despite a tough situation.
After years of mounting speculation that Michigan needed to make a change, the pressure on Harbaugh was about as intense as it could be.
His guru defensive coordinator, Don Brown, had not gotten it done. There was speculation that Harbaugh’s meddling would make it difficult for offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to do the job he was brought in to do.
On top of all that loomed the largest question: If not Harbaugh, then who?
He seemed to be the perfect guy for the Wolverines. Hard-nosed QB who played for Bo Schembechler. Went on to win at Stanford and with the 49ers.
That question seems to be off the table for now.
The question now seems to be. . . can Michigan spare the college-football world from an All-SEC rematch between Alabama and Georgia in the CFP championship game? (Cincinnati, basically a two-touchdown underdog, to the Tide, faces an even tougher assignment.)
The oddsmakers say no. The recruiting analysts say no.
Georgia-Michigan looks like a matchup of stellar defenses. Until Alabama rocked the Dawgs, they looked like a good bet to run the table. What are the chances they lose two in a row?
We’ll find out in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.