Is The Jim Harbaugh Era Coming To An End At Michigan?

Written By Matt Schoch on December 14, 2020 - Last Updated on December 15, 2020

As Michigan likely closes its 2020 season, uncertainty surrounds coach Jim Harbaugh’s future.

On Tuesday, we learned that Saturday’s scheduled game at No. 18 Iowa was cancelled. Multiple reports suggest Michigan is not planning on pursuing bowl game opportunities.

But those are minor decisions compared to the one that could be coming.

Calls for a change among the fan base are spiking. Former Wolverines star Amani Toomer told PlayMichigan this summer that things needed to improve in Ann Arbor.

Michigan has promptly gone 2-4 this season, pulling Harbaugh’s career record down to 49-22 in six seasons at the helm of his alma mater.

So what might become of Harbaugh? We offer some possibilities.

Rivalry failure muddied decent Jim Harbaugh run

In all reality, a .690 winning percentage is kind of nice.

But anything more than a surface look shows the warts of Harbaugh’s run, which has fell well short of its high expectations.

Harbaugh is 3-3 against Michigan State, a program Wolverines’ supporters like to think they are far superior to.

But the only certainty with regard to superiority has to do with its other rival Ohio State. Harbaugh is 0-5 against the Buckeyes. A beatdown and sixth loss against OSU was all but guaranteed this season had the game not been canceled because of COVID-19.

Michigan could extend Jim Harbaugh’s contract

Ahh yes, COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic is here and waiting as a ready-made excuse for any major college athletic program hoping to chalk up a bad season to unforeseen outside forces.

That’s fair to some extent.

And there’s also prudence in not shelling out extra cash for football coaches given the losses athletic programs are taking without fans in the stands.

It would be fair to conclude that Michigan should not pay a settlement buyout of Harbaugh’s one remaining year on his contract, while also paying the freight for a nationwide search and new coach while the country deals with other matters.

If an extension is coming, expect word fast, as the early signing period starts Wednesday.

Wolverines could find a new dynamic coach

In a lot of ways, this period of Michigan football mirrors the end of the Lloyd Carr days from the mid-2000s.

The Wolverines were consistently good but weren’t able to get over the hump since the magical national championship season in 1997.

Carr walked away, but Michigan fans soon longed for the solid program he led.

The school went outside the box by bringing in Rich Rodriguez, an innovative then-young offensive mind from West Virginia. His three seasons in Ann Arbor were rough, going 15-22.

Finding a candidate like Matt Campbell of Iowa State or plucking Joe Brady from the Carolina Panthers would fit this mold.

Michigan could fire Harbaugh, find another ‘Michigan Man’

With the program reeling after the Rodriguez years, the powers-that-be brought in a Michigan Man in Brady Hoke.

Hoke’s father played with Bo Schembechler at Miami (Ohio) and coached on Gary Moeller and Carr’s staffs at Michigan.

The Hoke era was also below Michigan’s lofty standards, going 31-20 in four seasons. The 2014 season was a sputtering 5-7, which sealed his fate.

There aren’t any Michigan Men that stand out as obvious major college head coaching candidates.

But a look at emerging Big Ten power Indiana could provide a couple of friendly faces for the staff. That includes former star running back Mike Hart, who coaches the IU running backs, and former quarterback Nick Sheridan, the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator.

Former Michigan quarterback Scot Loeffler is a rising name in the coaching ranks. But he hasn’t had any success yet at his first head coaching stop, starting 3-14 in two seasons at Bowling Green.

Photo by AP Photo/Tony Ding
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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