Jim Harbaugh attacked his first news conference of 2022 with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, using bold rhetoric and answering pointed questions. He called his Michigan football program “scary good” and said o reporters that, from where he stands, the door to the NFL is closed.
Harbaugh, who was in a jovial mood, made those remarks Tuesday — 34 days after he flew to Minnesota for an interview with the Vikings. Harbaugh’s rumored interest in a return to the professional ranks dominated the headlines in the month following the Wolverines’ maiden voyage in the College Football Playoff, leaving Michigan in a state of limbo throughout January.
“I feel like Coach, he’s open to have his own opinions of whatever he wants to do, whether you agree with it or not,” former linebacker Josh Ross said last week.
The episode caused a lot of angst and confusion within the Michigan fan base while blunting the momentum of a 12-win season and a Big Ten title.
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Following a resounding loss to Georgia in the CFP semifinal round, Harbaugh continued to talk of a “new beginning” with Michigan.
Yet there he was, contemplating the end of his tenure as he eyed other opportunities.
“And see if that was something I wanted to do,” he said.
But Harbaugh realized Michigan was home as he left Minnesota without an offer.
“I just ultimately decided this is where I wanted to be,” he said
Harbaugh communicated that to athletic director Warde Manuel immediately after the Vikings interview, telling him the flirtations with the NFL would no longer be a recurring issue.
“That’s how I felt,” he said. “That’s how I feel.”
On Feb. 15, Harbaugh signed a five-year extension worth $8.34 million annually, restoring his compensation to a sum that approximated the amount he earned before a massive pay cut in January 2021. Included in the new agreement was a buyout that starts at $3 million and decreases by $750,000 each subsequent year of the contract.
According to Harbaugh, the revised deal soothed concerns of recruits who wondered if he would remain at Michigan in the long term.
“When that was signed and I said that this is where I am going to be, there was a quelling,” he said.
Now, Harbaugh’s full attention has shifted back to the program he runs. The Wolverines have held four of their 15 spring practices and Harbaugh is eyeing the sport’s biggest prize.
“We could win college football’s greatest trophy,” he said. “We could win the national championship. And that’s plenty good.”
Not long ago, some wondered if Harbaugh felt that way. In conversations with close associates and recruits during the period preceding his dalliance with the NFL, he discussed his burning desire to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory.
But that was then, Harbaugh asserted.
“I’m completely focused on winning a national championship,” he said.
Contact Rainer Sabin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter.