As a Michigan fan, I couldn’t be happier right now. Well, scratch that, I would be happier if we were awaiting a big bowl game. But, we aren’t, because of the disaster the program became under Brady Hoke. So, now I’m very happy because we’re hiring Jim Harbaugh to be our next head coach. And, I believe his qualifications and abilities merit making him the highest paid coach in the business, given the resources and the winning tradition of the Michigan program.
Jim Hackett surprised me and impressed me throughout this process. I did not believe that an interim AD with no experience doing such a job would be able to do what was necessary. But he did. And while hiring Harbaugh doesn’t guarantee us anything, it makes it very, very likely that Michigan will return to prominence.
With all that being said, one thing I’ve heard a lot of is “why would Michigan pay that much for a head coach?” Or a variant on that question. This is what I want to address. There seem to be two common arguments against the amount of the contract ($8 million a year) and I will explain why I disagree with both.
The first argument has to do with some imagined “integrity” of college sports. The thinking goes, this is amateur athletics and no coach should ever be making so much money. Go back to that point about imagined integrity. The fact that the NCAA is about money first, second, third, fourth, and fifth has been so well-documented in the last few years that I am not going to spend the time to explain it. I will, instead, point you to The Shame of College Sports, a brilliantly written and very revealing piece written by Taylor Branch that appeared in The Atlantic in 2011. To make a long story short, by defining players as “student athletes,” the NCAA has been able to avoid paying them while making billions of dollars from their efforts… and even more sickeningly, they have been able to avoid providing any kind of medical coverage for current or former players who have suffered catastrophic injuries. I rest my case about the total lack of integrity of the NCAA.
The second argument, which I guess is tied in with the first in some sense, is that a school just shouldn’t be spending that much money on a coach. That’s where tuition money is going?! Well, it’s not, because the athletic department is self-supporting. Not a single dime of tuition fees will go into Harbaugh’s paycheck. And the increase in ticket sales and donations – both of which were on track to implode at the rate things were going the last two seasons – will more than justify the salary.
And, I have a good feeling that the wins will justify it as well.