Michigan focused on Sherrone Moore as next coach

Even before he left to take over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday, Jim Harbaugh had been touting his prospective replacement at Michigan.

Harbaugh said in the lead-up to the national championship game this month that offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore was ready to be a head coach, considering him “proven” based on a 4-0 record as interim coach that included wins at Penn State and over Ohio State during Harbaugh’s multiple 2023 suspensions.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel vowed to do everything in his power to keep Harbaugh in Ann Arbor. Per reports, Manuel and Michigan offered a $125 million contract that would have made Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in college football. But it wasn’t enough to prevent him from returning to the NFL.

Now that Harbaugh’s exit is official, Manuel said Michigan is moving quickly to replace him with a goal of keeping the coaching staff and defending national championship roster together, and Moore is Harbaugh’s likely successor. NCAA rules permit a 30-day window for players to enter the transfer portal even though the new semester has started.

According to reports, that includes a waiver application to bypass a state law mandating university positions be posted for all applicants to review for seven business days. Manuel likely can make the case for waiver approval under the requirement Michigan has a legitimate position that “business needs of the unit outweigh the University’s intent to provide notice of employment opportunities to the University community and others through the posting process.”

As of Thursday morning, the job had not been publicly posted.

Harbaugh reportedly is planning to hire Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter to run the Chargers’ defense.

“We have been in talks with Jim Harbaugh for the last several weeks and have tried our best to retain him as our football coach,” Michigan president Santa Ono said in a statement. “Jim called me today and let me know that he has made the difficult decision to leave Michigan and join the Los Angeles Chargers in pursuit of his NFL dreams.

“For the fans, the players, and for me personally, we are sad to hear of Jim’s departure. His drive and ambition turned our program around, delivered our first national championship in a quarter century and maintained Michigan as the all-time winningest team in the history of college football.

“I thank Jim for all he has done for the University of Michigan and respect his decision. He has been an extraordinary leader and a friend. I will be cheering for Jim as he embarks on this next adventure.”

Michigan went 15-0, beating Washington in the College Football Playoff national championship two weeks ago to cap a bizarre and scandalous season during which Harbaugh served two suspensions for separate rules violations. He went 86-25 as Michigan’s head coach.

Moore, who turns 38 next week, has never been a head coach at any level. He played guard at Oklahoma during Bob Stoops’ heyday, and said prior to the Rose Bowl he appreciated the opportunity to get a feel for calling the shots on the Michigan sideline.

“The biggest difference is that when you’re the head coach you got to talk with the reps a lot, and that communication can be positive, can be a little negative,” Moore said in Pasadena, Calif. “But I try to manage that as best as possible — making the decisions on the fly in those situations, as a coordinator, especially going for it on fourth down, when you have a head coach there you’re counting on him.

“When you’re the head coach you kind of make that call yourself. But me and (Harbaugh), we have the same mindset of how we would call it, how we would do it in those situations. Those are the biggest differences going from just a coordinator to the head coach.”

Moore arrived at Michigan in 2018 and became co-offensive coordinator in 2020. While not what many in the fanbase would call a “Michigan Man,” Moore said before the national title game that he was more than content in Ann Arbor and not chasing a head-coaching position, citing loyalty to the Wolverines.

“Most coaches at some point in their life want to do that,” Moore said. “When the time comes, the time comes, but I’m in no rush to leave this place, this great university, these students and Coach Harbaugh.”