Schlissel: UM already reaping benefits of Harbaugh hire

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Michigan’s football season hasn’t started, but first-year coach Jim Harbaugh is already paying off, president Mark Schlissel said Monday.

“He’s mitigated some of our financial risk from the diminishing attendance and season tickets,” Schlissel said during an editorial board meeting with The Detroit News. “Now everything is sold out. Lots of national attention. Hopefully it reflects well on the uiversity in the years ahead.”

In December, Michigan hired Harbaugh after he spent four seasons with the 49ers. The former Michigan quarterback was one of the most sought-after coaches in the nation. He replaced Brady Hoke, who was fired after a 5-7 season.

The hire, however, came at a steep cost: a reported minimum of $40.1 million for seven years, making Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in college football and on par with the highest-paid coaches in the NFL.

At Michigan Stadium, where games had been sold out for years, attendance dipped last year as students and fans rebelled against higher ticket costs and mounting defeats.

Enter Harbaugh, whom Schlissel described as “ a high integrity, very-intense person, carries lots of enthusiam.”

His comments about Harbaugh mitigating some financial issues come two months after interim athletic director Jim Hackett reported the university’s athletic department had a deficit of nearly $8 million this year, the first time in about a decade it operated with a loss. At the time, Hackett said the 2016 budget would be balanced.

One of the things that has impressed Schlissel most is Harbaugh has told the players most of them are not going to make their living in pro football.

“The most important thing for them is to get as much value as they can out of their years at Michigan,” Schlissel said, relaying Harbaugh’s messages to the team. “They are getting a shot to have an education that makes a difference. He thinks part of his job is to make sure they realize that.”;

News wire services contributed