Just the facts in the Jim Harbaugh saga

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan hasn't had a football coach since Brady Hoke was fired on Dec. 2 and interim athletic director Jim Hackett formally began the search for a replacement.

A lot has happened since then.

Let's see, there was a debunked report that Duke coach David Cutcliffe was offered the job and turned it down, and then there's LSU coach and Michigan alum Les Miles, who told local reporters to turn off their recorders and cameras before he informed them he's not considering the Michigan job.

Other coaches, whose names have been linked even in a fringe sense to the U-M opening, like Boston College's Steve Addazio, have signed contract extensions.

Where does that leave things?

Pretty much where it started.

In a nutshell, Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers coach and former Michigan quarterback, remains Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for Michigan, and it feels like things are in a holding pattern until the 49ers' season ends on Dec. 28. They were eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday.

Here's a rundown of what we know and don't know:

Is Harbaugh headed to Michigan? Really, this all depends on who you talk to, and let's be honest, Harbaugh isn't telling a whole lot of people much of anything. Still, the percentage game is played almost daily, as in, "What's the percent chance Harbaugh will come to Michigan?" as if anyone really knows outside of Harbaugh's inner circle.

It's clear his days in San Francisco are numbered, and it's also clear NFL teams will be coming after him. It's also clear Michigan has come calling. Harbaugh has had multiple, regularly-scheduled, 49ers-related news conference this month, and beyond analyzing his body language, he has been consistent in how he has answered questions about Michigan — "As you know, I only talk about the job that I have," he said Thursday, essentially repeating everything he has said for weeks.

But one thing he hasn't been on record saying — "No" to Michigan.

Let's talk money: What was reported Wednesday night — and never confirmed by Michigan officials who have said they will not comment on the search until it is complete — is Michigan offered Harbaugh $48-$49 million (depending on the report) over six years. That contract would make him the highest-earning coach in college football.

But what The Detroit News learned through a source with knowledge of Michigan's search is those numbers aren't accurate. We were told those weren't Michigan's numbers, but what Michigan offered hasn't been confirmed, either. Suffice it to say, he would be among the nation's highest-paid coaches if he accepts and comes to Ann Arbor and that financial greed isn't a card Harbaugh is playing.

What of the NFL? Interest will be strong for Harbaugh after the 49ers season is over. NFL experts have reported that the Raiders will make a push and so could the Jets and Bears and maybe even the Dolphins.

But speaking of the NFL experts, they have thrown ice cold water for weeks on any speculation that Harbaugh might consider returning to the college ranks to coach his alma mater. That was until late Wednesday, when the reported contract was leaked.

Now, some are suggesting the chances are 50-50 he might leave the NFL. Most still say Harbaugh will remain in the league, but they have left the window open at least a crack.

Time frame: Hackett said during the news conference announcing Hoke's firing that he would be deliberate in terms of searching for a replacement.

So while Oregon State and Nebraska and Wisconsin have already hired coaches, Michigan is now on Day 18 of "The Pursuit of Harbaugh."

No one ever suggested there should be a rush, though. After all, recruiting is in its dead period. Making a hire before the end of the year, however, would give the coach time to get his staff in place before heading to the annual AFCA coaching convention Jan. 10-14 and before the recruiting period commences Jan. 15-31.

And at Michigan, the personal seat license deposits for football tickets are due Jan. 31.

What if? So what if Harbaugh ultimately decides not to return to Michigan? Hackett has run a tight coaching search with few updates, unless you think releasing the name of the search firm on Dec. 12 was a big deal. Keep an eye on Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. He's coaching his team against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Eve. Could he be next in line for the Michigan job? Stay tuned.