There were significant rumors that Harbaugh would be fired after last season’s brutal 2-4 finish. Instead, he got a contract extension, albeit not one that really reflects that the school is happy with the direction in which things are moving.
The five-year, $20 million extension essentially slashes his base-pay in half. He can work his way up to his previous pay level of $8 million via incentives, but clearly Michigan wanted to divest themselves from Harbaugh without going through with firing him. Perhaps even more significant is a very manageable $2 million buyout that will drop by $500,000 each year through the end of his deal in 2025.
Finebaum thinks that this will be Harbaugh’s final season in Ann Arbor, after back-to-back declining years after the 10-win 2018 campaign. He didn’t mince words on Get Up! this morning.
“Jim Harbaugh is not going to survive,” Finebaum said on this morning’s show. You don’t start cutting someone’s salary after doing a lousy job for the last couple of years and expect him to suddenly do something that he hasn’t done. When we had these conversations in the past, I would get blowback from Michigan fans. Not anymore. Michigan fans have had enough of Jim Harbaugh.
“And the school maybe made a wise decision not making a change in a pandemic year, although a lot of other schools did, but I think Jim Harbaugh is on extremely short time. In fact, I think he’ll be gone when this next season comes to an end. I think he has virtually no chance of surviving.”
Now, there are a few situations in which Finebaum believes that, hypothetically, Harbaugh could survive: 1.) beat Ohio State for the first time, and/or 2.) make the College Football Playoff.
The problem? He doesn’t think Harbaugh will “ever” get over the hump against the Buckeyes.
“He has to go to the playoffs,” Finebaum said. “We’re not talking about some midland program in the middle of nowhere. We’re talking about the University of Michigan here. This is one of the great programs in the history of college football and for the university to acknowledge that it’s okay to be lousy or mediocre, is embarrassing and shameful. Does he have to beat Ohio State?
“The only way he keeps his job without beating Ohio State is to find a way to the playoffs, and that’s not going to happen. So, ultimately, he has to beat Ohio State. And you know what, Greeny? He’s not going to do it. He’s not going to do it next year, the year after, I don’t think he’s ever going to do it.”
We probably undersell how close Michigan had been to turning the corner, both against Ohio State and in the College Football Playoff picture, a few years ago under Harbaugh. However, his inability to beat his main rival one time, and his four straight bowl losses are glaring, and while last year’s 2-4 record may be excused due to the pandemic, it is clear that the program is on a serious slide.
We’ll see if things are as cut and dry as Finebaum says this fall, but it is hard to deny that Jim Harbaugh is on a clear hot seat.