Michigan's Jim Harbaugh leads way as state's DI football coaches cash in on big bonuses

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was, in many ways, working on commission in 2021.

Well, 2021 has proved to be a good year.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates after a touchdown during the second quarter against Ohio State.

Harbaugh collected a $500,000 bonus Saturday for winning the Big Ten East Division after the 42-27 pummeling of Ohio State in Ann Arbor, and stands to earn another $1.5 million bonus if Michigan beats Iowa in next Saturday's Big Ten championship game — $1 million for winning the title another $500,000 for making the College Football Playoff.

If Michigan goes on to win the CFP, Harbaugh would collect another $1 million bonus.

All told, he could boost his salary by more than $3 million.

Harbaugh, 57, signed a contract extension last offseason, a deal which cut his base pay to $4 million from $8 million and put more incentives on beating his rivals and winning championships. It was a humbling pay cut for a high-profile coach who arrived in Ann Arbor to significant fanfare — fanfare which slowly wore off as the losses to rivals piled up over the years.

On Saturday, Harbaugh, in his seventh season, beat Ohio State for the first time in six tries as Michigan head coach (the 2020 game was canceled because of COVID-19).

"You just keep working, keep grinding, knowing that it's gonna pay off," Harbaugh said Saturday night, of a program that had renewed focus in 2021, particularly on the Ohio State game. A sign was famously placed in the program’s weight room asking Michigan players what they were doing that day to beat Ohio State. "

"This team is beautifully soldered together as a team, as a true team."

Harbaugh was joined by Michigan's other four Division I head coaches in securing bonuses for the 2020 season, which saw Michigan State (10-2), Central Michigan (8-4), Western Michigan (7-5) and Eastern Michigan (7-5) also earn bowl bids.

All five state-of-Michigan Division I teams finished a combined 43-17.

Michigan State's Mel Tucker was the biggest financial winner of the five head coaches, his team's 8-0 start and win over Michigan earned him a 10-year, $95 million extension that makes him the second-highest-paid coach in college football. Tucker also earned a $125,000 bonus for finishing among the Big Ten's best three seeds, behind only Michigan and Ohio State.

Eastern Michigan's Chris Creighton has earned $35,000 in bonuses — $25,000 for making a bowl and $10,000 for reaching seven wins — as well as a $10,000 raise to his annual retention bonus for making a bowl. Creighton could earn another $37,500 with a bowl victory. His assistant-coach pool also gets a 2% boost for the bowl appearance, and it'd be 3% with a bowl win.

Central Michigan's Jim McElwain has earned $30,000 in bonuses — $20,000 for making a bowl and $10,000 for reaching eight wins. With a bowl victory, he would earn another $27,500 in bonuses.

And Western Michigan coach Tim Lester has earned $35,000 in bonuses — $25,000 for making a bowl and $10,000 for reaching seven wins. He would receive another $25,000 for winning a bowl game.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984