College Football
Jim Harbaugh on his coaching future: 'I hope to have one'
College Football

Jim Harbaugh on his coaching future: 'I hope to have one'

Updated Jan. 6, 2024 4:46 p.m. ET

HOUSTON — Jim Harbaugh likes to say that fans come to college football games to watch the players.

"They really don't come to watch the coaches, they don't come to watch the administrators, they come to watch the players," the Michigan coach said Saturday at media day ahead of the College Football Playoff national championship game. Michigan will face Washington at NRG Stadium on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET).

While Harbaugh's comments may be true, he is the biggest story looming over the title game. That's because there is a chance that, regardless of how this matchup shakes out, he will leave his alma mater for the NFL after it's over.

Harbaugh did not want to talk about that at media day. He dismissed every NFL question. Even ones that weren't directly about job rumors or the league itself — if he heard those three letters, he shut it down.


For example, when Harbaugh was asked if Monday's result would influence his decision to continue coaching the Wolverines or go back to the NFL, where he hasn't coached in almost a decade, Harbaugh deflected. 

"No idea about that," he said. "Couldn't be more happy to be here."

Harbaugh was pressed further. What will Michigan football look like moving forward? Stars like J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum, Roman Wilson and more are expected to enter the NFL Draft, so the team will look drastically different in 2024. Harbaugh himself has reportedly been offered a 10-year, $125 million contract extension, but has not signed it. He's also reportedly hired Don Yee, whose client list includes legendary quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos head coach Sean Payton, as his new agent.

And yet, although Michigan football and Habaugh's futures are intertwined, he wouldn't touch that, either.

"I'll gladly talk about the future next week," Harbaugh said. "And I hope to have one. How about that? Future? I hope to have one."

Would the NFL be a better spot for Jim Harbaugh?

To make matters extra juicy, Monday is not just the CFP championship game. It's also Black Monday, which is the first day after the NFL regular season ends when many coaches are handed pink slips.

Harbaugh has said before that he has "unfinished business" in the NFL. He's flirted with a return the last few seasons. But he does a masterful job of sidestepping the issue.

How does he think this kind of week — the hoopla surrounding the Rose Bowl and the national championship — compares to Super Bowl week? Fans are allowed to attend media days, there's plenty of silliness when it comes to players interviewing each other, and on Saturday, there was even a dog adorably trotting around getting lots of attention and pets (ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit has been bringing his golden retriever Ben on the road with him this season). Yet Super Bowl week brings its own brand of silliness, something Harbaugh experienced during Super Bowl XLVII when he was the San Francisco 49ers head coach. 

"Very similar," Harbaugh said unenthusiastically regarding the similarities between the two massive events. "It's got that same feeling."

A few minutes later, Harbaugh was asked about the difference in time management between coaching in the NFL and in college. 

"I don't have that list in front of me," he said. "I don't have that list."

Keys for Michigan's defense vs. Washington

One thing Harbaugh was especially passionate about discussing, however, was advocating for player revenue sharing.

"There used to be a saying, old coaches — my dad's used it, my brother's used it — we're all robbing the same train here," Harbaugh said.

"So that needs to change. It's one thing for somebody to say, well, they're getting NIL. But the billions that are being generated, they're not getting much of, very small percentage. They're getting the same amount as I got in the 80s. You're getting scholarship, room, board, books and tuition."

Harbaugh hopes that given how quickly things can and do change in this sport, revenue sharing can become a reality, too.

"We've seen a whole conference go into a portal," Harbaugh said, referring to the dissolution of the Pac-12. "If those things can happen overnight … I don't know how the sausage gets made completely, there's a lot of smart people that do, that know a lot about revenue sharing, know a lot about how those algorithms and economics work. And the real issue is there's no voice for the players."

Harbaugh has said his peace on this topic before and will make noise about it any time he can. And maybe next week, like he said, he will finally address the NFL chatter once and for all.

But until then, Harbaugh is solely focused on stopping Husky quarterback Michael Penix Jr., beating Washington and winning Michigan's first national championship since 1997.

"The best part is just what it means for each guy on the team, each player on the team that their families can say, ‘My son is a national champion,'" Harbaugh said. "‘For the grandparents, the relatives, brothers and sisters to say my brother's a national champion.

"I feel the same way with my kids, for them to be able to know their dad's a champion or my wife to know her husband's a champion. It's really for everybody else. And that's what makes it so much better is that it's just so many people involved that get to reap the reward of that."

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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