February 17, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Hoke's possible new title: J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family head football coach

Brady Hoke could be known as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family head football coach starting March 1. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

What can a $10 million gift to Michigan get you?

Naming rights and endowment for the head football coach.

If approved by the University of Michigan Regents at Thursday’s meeting, Brady Hoke’s official title will be the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach, effective March 1.

This is the first endowed coaching position at Michigan, but not the first nationally. Stanford, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Northwestern have endowed positions, as do most Ivy League schools.

At Stanford, for instance, an anonymous donor endowed the offensive coordinator’s position so it would be called the “Andrew Luck Directorship of Offense” to honor the former quarterback. Northwestern last year received a $16 million gift with $10 million of that endowment used to fund the athletic director’s job.

In the letter to the Regents, the head coach is described as someone who passes along the “rich history and tradition” of Michigan football.

“This endowed position will strengthen the program for years to come and ensure the future generation of student-athletes will continue to benefit from outstanding coaching and leadership,” the communication reads.

The endowment goes to the athletic department, which invests it and uses a portion of the proceeds to help fund the coaching position.

On Michigan State’s website, there is a section called the Spartan Fund, “Invest in Champions,” and it details how endowments work and what can be endowed and lists the “gift levels” for various coaching positions.

A $5 million donation would endow either the head football coach or head men’s basketball coach. The endowment for men’s hockey and women’s basketball coach is $2 million. All other head-coaching endowments are $1 million and a $500,000 gift would be an endowment for an assistant coach in football, basketball or hockey.

“Endowments in higher education are becoming more critical, including within intercollegiate athletics,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in an email Monday. “Specific to athletics, endowments in scholarships, coaching positions and operations allowed a department to sustain excellence for years to come.”

An athletic department official said Michigan can’t comment until the Regents approve the endowment. The Harris family has donated to the university before, including gifts to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The Harris family name also is on the Michigan football locker rooms.

Harris earned a BBA from Michigan in 1959. He is chairman of the financial advisory firm, J.I. Harris and Associates and has worked on some of the biggest deals in corporate history. According to the Ross School of Business website, Harris is considered a "legend" in the mergers and acquisitions world.

While this is the first coaching endowment at Michigan, the athletic director’s position is endowed and known as the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. Shepherd has donated $25 million to the university. His name is on the gymnastics training center, and also will be on the new softball center.

Shepherd graduated from Michigan in 1958 with a BBA. He was CEO and CIO of Loomis, Sayles & Company and was director of Denny's Corporation from 1998 to July 2011 and has been on a number of University of Michigan advisory committees.

Endowed head coaching positions and athletic director jobs are not as unusual as one might think. In fact, athletic departments are aspiring to make it the norm to offset department costs.

"For a long time the focus was on getting as many scholarships endowed as possible," ESPN sports business analyst Darren Rovell said Monday. "But in recent years athletic directors realized that it made fiscal sense to seek to get the biggest costs endowed, and that was their job and the head football and basketball coaches."

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com
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