Harbaugh’s future at Michigan is subplot of CFP title game as Washington tries to shut down DeBoer


HOUSTON (AP) — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was settling into his seat during College Football Playoff media day when he got the question that always lingers with him this time of year.

“I don’t know anything about it. I couldn’t be happier to be here,” said Harbaugh, 44-19, who went to the Super Bowl in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before taking over at Michigan in 2015. “

What makes this latest round of will-he-or-won’t-he dealings with Harbaugh and the NFL unique is that it’s resonating all the way to Seattle, where Washington has been working out a new contract for Kellen DeBoer since November.

“A lot of it is I didn’t want to be a distraction during this time of year, I didn’t want to be a distraction,” DeBoer said Saturday. “I think before the season, after the season they really like to work out the details.”

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If Harbaugh’s future is the main subplot of the national title game, the subplot of the subplot is, will DeBoer be a candidate to replace him?

This seems unlikely. It appears Michigan already has its next guy. Offensive coordinator Sharon Moore, Joe went 4–0 with wins over Penn State and Ohio State, while Harbaugh was serving a three-game suspension to start and end the regular season.

“You may have already glimpsed the shining star that she is. He’s amazing, very smart, works very hard at it,” Harbaugh said.

And DeBoer, 49, is thrilled at the prospect of settling down in Seattle for a few years after moving around the country for a decade and climbing the career ladder. Former South Dakota NAIA coach Washington is 25-2 in his two seasons and his daughter, high school senior Alexis, recently committed to play softball for the Huskies.

Last week at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, DeBoer talked about being able to walk from his office to the softball field to watch her play.

Here’s the problem: Michigan is one of the few jobs in the country that any coach would have to at least consider taking if it became available.

From Michigan’s perspective, as good as the 37-year-old Moore has been, DeBoer qualifies as one of the very few coaches right now that — if there is interest — the administration would at least consider.

So, new athletic director Troy Dannen has done his best to ease the underlying anger among Huskies fans.

Dannen, who moved to Washington from Tulane in early October, said Saturday that he contacted DeBoer’s representatives for a new contract in his second week on the job. DeBoer last year became a client of Alabama coach Nick Saban and high-powered agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

“I would have liked it to be behind me and I would have been worried about whether we were going to have a conversation again,” Dannen said. “But you know, the priority is his wants, his needs and what’s best for the program and he wants to wait, so we’ll play the game Monday night and Tuesday, we’ll talk again.”

No matter the outcome, DeBoer is in line for a huge raise. He received a contract extension after last season, when the Huskies went 11–2, bringing his salary to $4.2 million and lasting through 2028. This salary ranks DeBoer 44th in the nation this season and seventh among head college football coaches at public universities. According to USA TODAY’s database, the Pac-12.

Saban, with seven national championships, is the highest-paid coach in college football, making more than $11 million last season. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Georgia’s Kirby Smart, other active coaches who have recently won national titles, both make more than $10 million per year. LSU’s Brian Kelly and Ohio State’s Ryan Day, both of whom have made multiple playoff appearances, have salaries of more than $9 million.

Dannon said with Washington moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten for 2024, his goal is to join DeBoer among comparable coaches in the Huskies’ new conference.

Harbaugh came into the season as the fourth-highest paid coach in the Big Ten with $8.2 million, behind Day, Penn State’s James Franklin and fired Michigan State coach Mel Tucker.

Like Washington, Michigan is also working on a new deal for Harbaugh, despite an NCAA investigation into alleged personal scouting and a sign-stealing scheme that led to his late-season suspension by the Big Ten. Michigan is set to make Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten.

“Trust me. I’m working on it,” Michigan AD Warde Manuel told Fox Sports last week.

Dannen said the uncertainty at Michigan was not a factor in making a deal with DeBoer.

“Now if the Dallas Cowboys call, that’s another story,” Dannen said.

For now, everyone involved is focused on Monday night and winning a national championship.

“I’ll happily talk about the future next week,” Harbaugh said. “And I hope to have one, how about that? A future, I hope to have one, yes.”

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