The University of Michigan announced a deal Tuesday that makes Jim Harbaugh its next head football coach.
Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback for Michigan and played 15 years in the NFL in addition to coaching at Stanford University and, most recently, with the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh signed a seven-year deal worth $5 million per year plus increases each season. He also received a $2 million signing bonus.
Even though Michigan has fallen as a football powerhouse, Forbes says only Texas and Notre Dame bring in more revenue.
“From a strictly financial point of view, it’s already paid off, they’ll make more money off of him by lunch today,” says John U. Bacon, an author and commentator.
Bacon has written has written several books about Michigan football. He says the jump in season-ticket sales alone will more than pay Harbaugh’s contract, and if he can revive the storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, the entire Big Ten might profit.
“If you get that going, guess what? TV ratings go up. TV drives all of this. Not some of it, all of it,” says Bacon.
These days it isn’t just the University of Michigans of the world that are willing to offer pro money to land a coach. More and more Division One teams are willing to pay millions of dollars to satisfy their fans, which was practically unheard of a decade ago.
“You know, really the theme here is brand revival,” says Patrick Rishe, a sports economist at Missouri’s Webster University.
Michigan essentially had to offer pro-level dollars, Rishe says, partly to compete for a coach of Harbaugh’s ilk, but more importantly, “to also show their fans they’re serious about trying to get back into the fray.”
The real question all along wasn’t whether Jim Harbaugh was worth the money Michigan was offering, Rishe says, but whether Harbaugh would leave the NFL.
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