For University of Michigan officials, it’s a national championship this season in football or bust, and like a bunch of their peers, they wouldn’t mind stuffing a few extra nickels into their piggybank along the way.
So it’s safe to assume Michigan officials know “3” is less than “4,” and you also can bet they’re familiar with other numbers that follow dollar signs.
There is $210.6 million.
Then there is $17.1 million.
Michigan officials want to convert those millions into millions by concocting ways to keep Jim Harbaugh out of the NCAA slammer for as long as possible. They want their 59-year-old football coach to draw pretty Xs and Os this season, especially since he has a loaded roster, and they want him to become Bo Schembechler (Google
Mostly, they want Harbaugh to keep The Big House — OK, Michigan Stadium (107,601 seats) — packed and loud in Ann Arbor during the Wolverines’ journey to an undefeated regular season and a flawless stay in the College Football Playoff for their first national championship since 1997.
Let’s return to the millions associated with Michigan officials from the early part of our discussion. According to frontofficesports.com, the first of those two amounts represented school-record operating revenue for the Michigan athletics deparmtent during the fiscal year of 2022. The latter was the surplus in that stretch, and Harbaugh’s streaking football program provided most of the loot.
It took a while. During the early part of Harbaugh’s eight seasons at his alma mater, he was considered a bust by the Blue Nation.
Actaully, it was worse than that.
He couldn’t beat Ohio State.
He also struggled against in-state rival Michigan State, but the Buckeyes are The Great Satan for Michigan, and Harbaugh was oh-for-forever against them until he captured the last two of his seven games in the series.
Not coincidently, Michigan has won consecutive Big Ten championships as a result of Harbaugh’s new-found mastery of Ohio State, and the Wolverines have made the College Football Playoff each of those times.
It also inspired Michigan officials to share some of their rising wealth with Harbaugh since they nearly lost him back to the pros.
The former San Francisco 49ers head coach interviewed for NFL top jobs in Minnesota and Denver during his coming-out party with the Wolverines, but he stayed, and this helped: In February 2022, Michigan gave Harbaugh a five-year deal worth $36.7 million loaded with goodies. As a result, he checked so many boxes on the incentives list that he pocketed $10 million instead of the $7.05 million he originally was due after the 2022 season.
Now back to “3,” which is the number of games this season involved with the self-imposed suspension from Michigan officials to Harbaugh for his alleged NCAA violations during the COVID-19 dead period.
As for “4,” that was the length of the suspenson for Harbaugh during a tentative agreement between Michigan, Harbaugh and the NCAA. The deal collapsed last week, and if you go by Yahoo Sports, that means the whole thing likely won’t reach a conclusion until after this season.
Here’s what Michigan officials know: If you go by history, the NCAA cops often give a break to colleges who lock up their own folks on alleged NCAA charges before the trial begins.
And, yeah, the NCAA’s original deal with Harbaugh was a four-game suspension instead of the Wolverines’ three-game surprise out of nowhere, but Michigan officials will deal with that later.
It’s about now for the Wolverines.
It’s about that national championship.
Which is why Michigan’s suspension of Harbaugh will involve the first three games of this season. They’re all at home. They’re also all non-Big Ten games, and they’re all against patsies (East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green).
Nevertheless, with those unofficial scrimmmages for the Wolverines before conference play, and with Harbaugh coaching from the shadows, and with his team ranked among the Top Two in both the Associated Press and the coaches poll, The Big House will be stuffed no matter what.
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