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Michigan Wolverines signs 5-year deal with head football coach Jim Harbaugh

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh leads his players and fans in singing “Hail to the Victors” after a Wolverines’ practice session at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in August 2018. (AP file photo)

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR — Michigan has decided to stick with coach Jim Harbaugh, finalizing a new, five-year deal that cuts his guaranteed compensation but gives him an opportunity to make up for the financial loss if he can start winning championships.

The school will pay him $4 million in 2021 with a chance to make nearly $8 million in the fifth year of his contract, according to the memorandum of understanding signed by Harbaugh and athletic director Warde Manuel on Friday.

Harbaugh can make $1 million for winning the Big Ten title and another $1 million for winning the national championship along with other bonuses he will earn if he can improve the team’s success on the field.

“My thanks to athletic director Warde Manuel for the trust that he has shown in allowing me to continue to coach the University of Michigan football team, and to President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents for their ongoing support,” Harbaugh said.

The deal ends months of speculation about Harbaugh’s future. He could have potentially returned to the NFL or the school could have cut loose a coach with one year left on the seven-year contract paying him about $7 million per season that he signed after leaving the NFL.

“I continue to believe that Jim is the right man to lead our program in pursuit of Big Ten and CFP championships,” Manuel said. “Our program didn’t achieve at a level that anyone expected this year but I know those setbacks will drive the coaches, players and staff moving forward. Jim is a tireless worker and competitor. Following the completion of the season we talked for many hours on what it will take for Jim to lead and get us back on the right trajectory.”

Harbaugh is now under contract at Michigan through the 2025 season with his new deal, which includes relatively affordable buyouts for both sides if they decide to part ways.

Michigan can buy out Harbaugh’s contract for $4 million if it decides to fire him without cause after the 2021 season and the amount is reduced by $1 million in each of the following three years. Harbaugh, meanwhile, would owe the university $2 million if he leaves after the 2021 season, a figure that is reduced by $500,000 in each of the following three years.

Harbaugh has won nearly 70% of his games, but is winless against archrival Ohio State and as an underdog against any opponent. Michigan has not won the Big Ten since 2004, seven seasons after its last national championship.

The Wolverines were 2-4 in Harbaugh’s sixth season, which ended with three straight games being canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. They were 0-3 at the Big House, too, including listless losses to rebuilding rival Michigan State and previously winless Penn State.

“There is work to be done and challenges to be addressed,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh’s hiring was hailed in late 2014 and some suggested the former Wolverines quarterback was going to be a savior for college football’s winningest program.