Jim Harbaugh wanted to stay at Michigan, according to new book

Jim Harbaugh wound up leaving Michigan for the NFL after leading the Wolverines to a national championship, but that apparently wasn’t his initial wish following the 2023 season.

The former Michigan coach told a close friend of his in January that he wanted to remain in Ann Arbor a day prior to his first interview for the Los Angeles Chargers job, an excerpt from the upcoming book “The Price: What it Takes to Win in College Football’s Era of Chaos,” published by CBS Sports, revealed. However, Harbaugh told his friend, Todd Anson, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel wasn’t as strong of a supporter that he wanted him to be in front of Michigan’s Board of Regents, the excerpt of the book written by Armen Keteyian and John Talty shared. 

In addition to his claims about Warde, Harbaugh also “raged against” Big Ten commissioner Tony Pettiti in his meeting with Anson a day prior to his interview with the Chargers, according to the excerpt. Harbaugh reportedly shared that Petitti had promised to meet with him in Ann Arbor following the conference’s decision to give him a three-game suspension in the midst of the sign-stealing scandal, but claimed the Big Ten commissioner didn’t follow through.

Harbaugh wound up leaving Michigan to become the head coach of the Chargers in late January just a few weeks after winning the national championship. Michigan made its title-winning coach an offer that would’ve made him the highest-paid coach in the sport, a five-year deal worth over $11 million per year with performance bonuses, but the school’s lawyers also wanted “termination language that would protect the school” if something emerged in the investigation over the sign-stealing scandal, according to the book.

Manuel told the authors of “The Price that he believes there might have been a “stumbling block” in trying to figure out how to handle any possible revelations from the sign-stealing scandal in Harbaugh’s offer. Harbaugh’s lawyer, Tom Mars, told the authors of the book that he wasn’t sure if that part of the offer affected Harbaugh’s decision to leave though, saying, “I know I told him under the circumstances I could not imagine any reason why he would not take the opportunity to go to the NFL if it presented itself.”

The sign-stealing scandal wasn’t the only issue that forced Harbaugh to miss time during the 2023 season. He sat out the first three games of the year due to a self-imposed three-game suspension as the NCAA investigated him for violating recruiting rules.

Mars told the authors that he relayed to Harbaugh and his agent he would face two Committee of Infractions hearings and had a good feeling he would be suspended for “four games, maybe six” in the 2024 season.

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Harbaugh eventually “dialed down” on his comments about Manuel and his possible legal fight with the NCAA, according to the book. Manuel told the authors when asked if he was surprised by Harbaugh’s decision to leave that he didn’t “want to use the word surprised” because of his previous flirtations with the NFL. Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings‘ for their head coach vacancy in the 2022 offseason and reportedly met with the Denver Broncos a year later.

Of course, Harbaugh came to Michigan from the NFL. He spent four seasons as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, leading them to the NFC Championship Game in his first three seasons on the job before the two sides agreed to part ways at the end of his fourth season in 2014.

Now, Harbaugh turns his attention to trying to do what he did at the college level over the last few seasons: Bring the Chargers to glory and win a Super Bowl.

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