Harbaugh to give bonus money to athletic department workers who took pay cuts

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh could potentially receive nearly $3.5 million in incentive bonuses – he already earned $500,000 for winning the outright Big Ten East title – but plans to return whatever he receives to the athletic department.

Harbaugh, appearing on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show Monday night said he and his wife, Sarah, decided Sunday night they wanted to give back and earmarked the money to be distributed to those in the athletic department who took pay cuts as the department struggled financially last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh

“Sarah and I were talking about it last night,” Harbaugh said Monday night on the radio show to host Jon Jansen, “and we decided that any bonus money that I am to receive through this season will be redirected to reimburse UM athletic department employees who have stayed while taking a voluntary or mandatory pay reduction during the last 18 months during the pandemic.”

He led the Wolverines (11-1) to a 42-27 win over Ohio State at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, snapping an eight-game losing streak to their rivals while clinching the Big Ten East title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game against Iowa on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. This is the 11th Big Ten title game and Michigan’s first appearance.

Harbaugh, in his seventh season coaching his alma mater, signed a contract extension earlier this year that cut his salary in half and was incentive-laden. He earned $4 million for his base salary and has a maximum incentives bonus of $3.475 million this year. If Michigan beats Iowa on Saturday for the Big Ten title, Harbaugh will earn $1 million.

“Whether it’s folks that work here in football or at the ticket department or baseball coaches, (swim coach) Mike Bottom, there’s so many people that my wife has gotten very close to, kids have, really just our family contribution to those that have had some financial strain through the last 18 months,” Harbaugh said.

Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel laid off 21 people in the athletic department last year because of budget losses owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and had 15 unfilled positions. The department also had comprehensive salary freezes and reductions ranging between 5% and 10% for most employees. Last June, during a presentation to the University Regents, Manuel projected a deficit of $62.9 million for the 2021 fiscal year. Manuel was adamant he would not cut any sports despite the financial issues.

Last Sunday, Michigan running back Blake Corum distributed turkey meals to two Ypsilanti communities because he wanted to help those in need celebrate Thanksgiving. He used some of the money he has earned from Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), which kicked in on July 1, to purchase 100 turkeys, and that donation was matched. He was able to distribute 200 meals.

Harbaugh was asked last week for his reaction to Corum’s generosity.

“I know what kind of gesture that is,” Harbaugh said. “It’s genuine, heartfelt. And my second impression was, why wasn’t I doing something like that? I was just watching film all day. He's an amazing young man.”