ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Usually, college football coaches at major programs have many years on their contract that helps them persuade recruits to sign with the school.
Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh enters his sixth season as coach with just two years left on his deal that pays him about $7 million per season, adding another layer of interest to the 18th-ranked Wolverines as they kick off the season this week at No. 21 Minnesota.
Harbaugh said in July that he was closing in on a contract extension earlier this year before dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic became a top priority for him and the school.
Harbaugh was on a Zoom call with reporters on Monday, for the first time in three-plus months, and said there was no update on contract talks.
“Other fish — bigger fish — to fry,” he said.
What his message to recruits, who may hear other coaches question Harbaugh’s commitment to the school or vice versa?
“Go Blue,” Harbaugh said.
Michigan linebacker James Ross got to know Harbaugh when his brother, James, played linebacker for him in 2015 and his first impression of him has not changed over the years.
“Coach Harbaugh was a very passionate guy, very motivated guy,” Ross said. “He rallies all of us together as one. I love that guy and I’m glad he’s in my head coach.”
Harbaugh is 47-18 overall with the Wolverines and 32-12 in the Big Ten, including an 0-5 record against the Buckeyes. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has said repeatedly that he wants Harbaugh to lead the Wolverines until he chooses to retire from coaching.
Harbaugh did not appear to be pleased that the school he works for was among the Big Ten institutions that were in favor initially of punting football season to early 2021.
The Big Ten reversed its decision in mid-September less than five weeks after the conference announced it would push football and other fall sports to spring.
Harbaugh was an outspoken advocate for playing this year despite the pandemic. He pointed to protocols that have kept players and staff safe along with the fact that the young men on his team have been training for years to compete in 2020.
“They’ve put themselves in a position to have their chance, have their opportunity, to show what they can do and that’s the biggest thing I’m excited about,” he said. “There’s challenges, but the opportunity is the thing that means the most.”
Harbaugh said the program has had some positive COVID-19 tests over the last month, but that everyone had negative results as of Monday.
While Harbaugh said quarterback Joe Milton has been practicing with the first-string offense, he said it is difficult to name starters due to testing. He said players have to have negative tests Friday to travel with the team and again on Saturday to play that evening against the Golden Gophers.