The Michigan Wolverines announced a lucrative contract extension for head coach Jim Harbaugh that runs through the 2026 college football season. The agreement was announced just weeks after Harbaugh interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching vacancy. Harbaugh openly flirted with a return to the NFL throughout the process before the Vikings appointed former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. The serious discussions held between Harbaugh and the Vikings busted down the door for a potential return to the NFL in the near future for Harbaugh, even though the Vikings ultimately opted to go in a different direction. Harbaugh's new contract extension carries a well-deserved raise in pay after he led the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and historic appearance in the four-team college football playoff this past season. Harbaugh will earn $7.05 million in 2022, via Detroit News. It represents a sizable jump from the $4 million base salary Harbaugh earned in 2021 via a revised deal that initially lowered his annual earnings. Harbaugh's new contract extension includes intriguing buyout clauses that will do little to squash future rumors of a potential return to the professional ranks. Should an NFL team show interest in hiring Harbaugh following the conclusion of the 2022 season, the buyout paid to Michigan would cost $3 million. Interestingly enough, that amount drops significantly, to the tune of just $750,000 annually going forward. The Wolverines have ultimately done extremely little to nothing to prevent NFL franchises and owners from hiring Harbaugh in the future should they prefer to travel down that route. Harbaugh and his professional representation have almost certainly negotiated and worked in such a friendly and welcoming buyout clause into his new contract that would allow Harbaugh to pursue a return to the NFL should the thought qualify as particularly intriguing. The league's head coaching carousel created an astounding nine openings, all of which have now been filled in recent weeks. Expect this type of turnover to continue as owners and franchises continue to operate in an inpatient manner while chasing instant success. Should the 2022 cycle mirror the one we just witnessed, Harbaugh's name will almost certainly pop up again throughout the process. Michigan has essentially allowed for that to happen by hardly protecting themselves from the inevitable. Harbaugh took charge of the Wolverines in 2015 following a controversial and public departure from the 49ers due to philosophical differences with at-the-time general manager Trent Baalke. Harbaugh was highly successful throughout his time in the league while leading San Francisco to one Super Bowl appearance, two NFC Championship Game appearances, and three overall playoff berths while winning three division titles and 44 games in four seasons. Harbaugh captured the league's Head Coach of the Year honors for his surprising debut season in 2011. He was undeniably one of the more successful leaders of men throughout his tenure, and the league is more entertaining with Harbaugh in it. There's little left for Harbaugh to realistically achieve at Michigan, which currently lacks the recruiting ability to legitimately contend with the likes of Alabama and Georgia for a national championship. Expect rumors of Harbaugh's return to the NFL to intensify in the years to come.
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