February 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Michigan's Hoke officially the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach after $10M donation

'I am honored to have my name and title as Michigan head football coach associated with Ira and Nicki,' Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a statement. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

It’s official — the Michigan head football coach will be known as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach after a $10 million gift to the university for the benefit of the athletic department.

The endowment was approved by the U-M Regents on Thursday. It is the first endowment for a coach at Michigan. The athletic director’s position is endowed and known as the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics.

“I am honored to have my name and title as Michigan head football coach associated with Ira and Nicki,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a statement. “The Harris family has been incredibly generous to Michigan athletics. Beginning with Bo (Schembechler), they established meaningful relationships with members of our Michigan football coaching tree, and I am honored to be one of them.”

Harris, a 1959 Michigan graduate, is the chair of J.I. Harris & Associates, a financial consulting firm. He and his family have endowed professorships, created scholarships and donated to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the family name is on the Michigan football locker room.

“This gift was a way to honor and pay tribute to the history and tradition of Michigan Football and the joy it has given my family throughout the years,” Harris said in a statement. “We are proud to be a part of the Michigan family and to provide resources that will continue our tradition as Leaders and Best.”

While this is the first endowed coaching position at Michigan, it is not the first nationally. Stanford, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Northwestern have endowed coaching positions, as do most of the 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.

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 (allow) a department to sustain excellence for years to come.”