Houston (AP) — Jim Harbaugh, the coach of Michigan, had just gotten comfortable in his riser seat during the College Football Playoff media day when he was asked the question that seems to follow him around this time of year every year.
Could Monday night’s national championship match between the top-seeded Wolverines (14-0) and No. 2 Washington (14-0) be Harbaugh’s final game as head coach of his alma mater? NFL teams seem to be interested in it again.
“I’m not familiar with that. Before taking over at Michigan in 2015, Harbaugh, 44-19 and a four-time Super Bowl participant with the San Francisco 49ers, said, “I couldn’t be more happy to be here.”
The way that this most recent round of will-he-or-won’t-he drama involving Harbaugh and the NFL has affected Seattle, where Washington has been negotiating a new contract for Kalen DeBoer since November, is what sets it apart.
DeBoer stated on Saturday, “A lot of it is just that I didn’t want the distraction, don’t want the distraction during this time of year.” “I believe they really like to iron out details before the season, after the season.”
If the primary plot point of the national championship game is Harbaugh’s future, then the secondary plot point is whether DeBoer should be considered as a possible successor.
It doesn’t seem likely. Sherrone Moore, Michigan’s offensive coordinator, looks to be the team’s next man. Moore went 4-0 with wins over Penn State and Ohio State during Harbaugh’s three-game suspensions that began and ended the regular season.
“You’ve already seen a hint of the bright future he holds. He just works so hard at it, is so smart, and is amazing,” Harbaugh remarked.
And after traveling the nation for ten years to advance his career, DeBoer, 49, appears excited about the idea of relocating to Seattle for a few years. In his two seasons as Washington’s coach, the former NAIA coach from South Dakota is 25-2, and his daughter Alexis, a senior in high school, recently committed to play softball for the Huskies.
DeBoer mentioned how much he was looking forward to being able to walk from his office to the softball field to watch her play last week at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
The catch is that, if available, almost any coach would have to at least consider taking the Michigan position as it is one of the few in the nation.
Even though Moore, 37, has been an excellent coach for Michigan, DeBoer currently ranks among the very few that the administration would have to at least take into consideration if he were interested in the position.
Thus, the underlying frustration among Huskies supporters, which Troy Dannen, the new athletic director, has made an effort to allay.
After moving from Tulane to Washington early in October, Dannen said on Saturday that during his second week of work, he had discussed a new contract with DeBoer’s representatives. Last year, Jimmy Sexton—a powerful agent who represents Kirby Smart of Georgia and Alabama coach Nick Saban—acquired DeBoer as a client.
“I was worried about whether we would have to renegotiate the negotiation, and I would have loved to have it done and behind me,” Dannen remarked. “But you know, he wants to wait, so we’ll play the game on Monday night and talk again on Tuesday. His needs, wants, and what he thought was best for the program come first.”
DeBoer is going to receive a sizable raise regardless of the outcome. After the Huskies finished 11-2 the previous season, he was given a contract extension that increased his salary to $4.2 million and was valid through 2028. Based on his salary, DeBoer is ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 44th in the nation among major college football coaches at public universities this season.
With seven national titles under his belt, Nick Saban is the highest paid college football coach, taking home over $11 million in salary this past season. The two other active coaches who have recently won national titles, Dabo Swinney of Clemson and Kirby Smart of Georgia, both earn over $10 million annually. Both Ohio State’s Ryan Day and LSU’s Brian Kelly, who have both made numerous trips to the playoffs, are paid more than $9 million.
Dannen stated that his objective is to place DeBoer among similar coaches in the Huskies’ new conference, the Big Ten, since Washington will be switching from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2024.
At $8.2 million, Harbaugh was the fourth-highest paid coach in the Big Ten heading into the season, behind Day, James Franklin of Penn State, and Mel Tucker of Michigan State, who was fired in the interim.
Similar to Washington, Michigan has been negotiating a new contract for Harbaugh, even in the face of the NCAA’s investigation into a purported scheme involving in-person scouting and sign-stealing, which resulted in the Big Ten suspending him late in the season. Michigan is ready to give Harbaugh the highest salary of any Big Ten coach.
“Trust me. Michigan AD Warde Manuel told Fox Sports last week, “I’ve been working on it.”
According to Dannen, negotiating a deal with DeBoer is unaffected by the unpredictability at Michigan.
“That’s a different story if the Dallas Cowboys call,” Dannen remarked.
Everyone involved is concentrating on winning a national championship on Monday night for the time being.
Harbaugh stated, “I’ll be happy to talk about the future next week.” And how about that? I hope to have one. Yes, I do hope to have a future.