Hackett elated over Harbaugh's direction in UM program

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Last month Jim Hackett announced he would not become Michigan’s permanent athletic director.

Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett, who soon will be leaving his role, believes the foundation for the football program is strong and “in place.”

Hackett appeared Thursday on the “Huge Show” on WBBL-FM and spoke on a number of topics, including Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, the future of night games at Michigan Stadium, and his legacy as his alma mater’s interim athletic director since taking over Oct. 31, 2014.

Last month Hackett announced he would not become the permanent athletic director. The Detroit News and multiple other media outlets have reported Warde Manuel, a former Michigan athlete and administrator and most recently the UConn athletic director, has taken the job.

“For me, the pure joy I feel is that the foundation of a long-lived program is now in place,” Hackett said on the show. “All of the footings have been poured. The design’s right, the way Jim thinks about putting the program together, the way he thinks about how you have to win and taking the actions he has.”

Hackett, who also negotiated the program’s new apparel deal with Nike, was asked the biggest thing, besides hiring Harbaugh, he accomplished while at Michigan.

“The thing I feel like I got accomplished, we’re back in a place, and it’s all (Harbaugh) and his staff,” Hackett told the Huge Show. “At Steelcase (where he was CEO) we’d say we’re globally competitive. We can play anywhere in the globe and not be embarrassed that somehow we don’t get it or we’re not ready. This program, you can see with the recruiting, you can see with the coaching, you can see with the bowl outcome, we’re back.

“And that’s hard to do. It’s hard to bring programs back, and he’s done that.”

Hackett reiterated that he’s ironing out details in Harbaugh’s contract and that should be announced once signing day next Wednesday is over. Harbaugh has a seven-year contract with Michigan.

“I hope to have that settled soon,” Hackett said. “There’s zero debate about the money. We’ve kind of settled on that. It’s been about the structure.”

After Michigan walloped Florida in the Citrus Bowl, Harbaugh said this had been his favorite year in football. Hackett believes Harbaugh’s sentiments are genuine.

“What I know about him, I know from him directly, he’s very happy here Michigan,” Hackett said. “He doesn’t have to go anywhere else. I’ve said this to him, I said the day I told him I was not going to be the athletic director, I said, ‘You don’t have to go anywhere else to find what you now have here. You can’t. You can’t find what you have here, that’s why you came here.’ He loves it.”

Hackett said he would not try to answer whether this is Harbaugh’s final coaching destination.

Jim Harbaugh

“I wouldn’t speak for him, but what I can tell our fans and people who work for me, this is working really well,” he said.

Hackett did say Michigan, which did not host a night game last season, expects to have one this fall, although he could not be specific. Some likely targets would be the Penn State game on Sept. 24 or the Wisconsin game on Oct. 1, but Michigan plays at Rutgers the following week, which could be a night game, and he’s not thrilled about back-to-back night games.

“Our destiny is more night games,” Hackett said.

But, he said, while the night-game television ratings are a plus, the host school deals with added security and fans who travel long distances have that challenge, particularly returning home.

“With that said,” Hackett said, “because they’ve ben really successful at the Big House, we want to have another one, so we’re working on one this year.”

He was asked about a Michigan-Michigan State night game, although the rivalry doesn’t return to Michigan Stadium until 2017.

“It would be fun, but it’s not in our stadium next year, so I won’t be in charge when that question surfaces again,” Hackett said.