Wolverines AD thanks ‘Michigan Man’ Jim Harbaugh

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel vowed to do everything in his power to keep Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.

In the end, Manuel and Michigan offered a 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. Harbaugh, now the former head coach at Michigan, is taking over the same role with the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I want to thank Jim for everything he has done for our football program, athletic department and the University of Michigan over the past nine years. Every day, he has worked extremely hard to elevate the stature of Michigan across the world, with the goal of winning championships and developing young men on and off the football field,” Manuel said Wednesday night. “In the end, he wanted to explore and ultimately decided to pursue a return to coaching in the NFL. We can’t thank Jim enough for all that he has done for our student-athletes, staff and Michigan Football. He will always be a huge part of our rich history, and will be remembered as an all-time great Wolverine, as both a championship player and coach.”

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is considering the leading in-house candidate to replace Harbaugh.

Manuel said Michigan is moving quickly to replace Harbaugh with a goal of keeping the coaching staff and defending national championship roster together. NCAA rules permit a 30-day window for players to enter the transfer portal even though the new semester has started.

Harbaugh is reportedly 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 had a four-game cameo as head coach when Harbaugh served his suspensions.

Moore has never been a head coach at any level. He was an offensive 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. “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 came to 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’s 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.”