Manuel: Harbaugh ‘worth everything we pay him’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Ann Arbor – Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel believes football coach Jim Harbaugh is “worth everything that we pay him.”

Manuel offered that response Tuesday during a round table with media in regard to Harbaugh’s generous contract addendum revealed last week. He received in June a $2 million insurance payment, and will receive another at the end of the year, and his annual compensation is now a hair below Nick Saban's at Alabama.

Harbaugh was to make $5 million this year, but now Michigan will loan him an additional $4 million this year and $2 million the next five years to pay the life insurance policy.

Saban's annual compensation is $7.09 million.

Harbaugh, entering his second season at Michigan, has rejuvenated the program and fan base with a 10-3 season last fall, and his entertaining ability to sub-tweet with the best of them.

He clearly is the most recognizable individual at Michigan.

Is he the most powerful in the Michigan athletic department?

“Jim Harbaugh is a great colleague in this department,” Manuel said. “You guys can determine who’s more powerful and all-seeing and all-knowing; that’s not for me. Jim is a great colleague, he’s a great head coach of our football program. He’s a powerful figure in the university and he’s a powerful figure in intercollegiate athletics and in football because he’s the head coach at Michigan. He’s had a tremendous career, he is very bright. So you guys can put however you want to frame it, but I know he’s a great colleague to work with.”

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Manuel said he doesn’t have Harbaugh or any of his coaches on a leash and said they all – not just Harbaugh – have free rein to run their programs.

“I don’t have him (Harbaugh) on a leash, first of all. I don’t have leashes, that’s not the way I manage people,” Manuel said. “If there are things that I need to talk to Jim about, I talk to Jim about it. If there are things I need to talk to other coaches, I talk to them about it. But I don’t have leashes, and I don’t look at it as anything I need to control. I look at it as me helping this department manage effectively and put out there effectively what we’re trying to do.

“I don’t give anybody limits. We talk about things as they come up. I think the things that Jim has done have come up in the media, you guys react to it in different ways, our fans react to it in different ways, but Jim has been tremendous to deal with, very smart, very knowledgeable. So when issues come up that we need to talk about it, we talk about it. When something I say or policy or something I implement comes up, and he wants to talk to me about it, we talk about it, just like any other coach. He’s been tremendous to deal with.

“I let people be themselves. Jim has his own limits that he sets on what he does, and he understands the rules. He understands the Michigan culture. I have to make sure all my coaches are educated on the rules, I have to make sure all my coaches have a sense of the culture. I need to make sure that we have those discussions as a group, individually when necessary. I want Jim Harbaugh to be Jim Harbaugh.”

Harbaugh has been seemingly tireless since taking the job at his alma mater. He has challenged the NCAA at times by taking his team to Florida for spring break and launching an exhaustive summer satellite camp tour that created plenty of controversy and debate.

And he clearly does not mind mixing it up, and he enjoys thinking out of the box and implementing fresh takes. Harbaugh has been adept at utilizing social media to announce birthdays and visits with celebrities, but also has used Twitter to poke at national media members and coaching colleagues.

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Manuel has no interest in stifling Harbaugh.

“It’s a lot of attention on him, but he garnered a lot of attention when he was head coach at San Francisco,” Manuel said. “He garnered – I don’t know if it’s as much – attention when he was at Stanford. I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me. It is what it is.

“When I look at the coverage and what he’s doing and what’s out there about him and the program, it has a great deal of positive to it from my perspective. I don’t sit down with him and say, ‘Jim, I need you to do more,’ and I don’t tell him to do less. He’s doing what he’s comfortable doing, and there’s nothing at this point that would cause me any concern about the amount of coverage or the things that are being covered. Call it what it is, he’s doing some things, but most of the coverage is coverage by the media. It’s not Jim every day putting out a story or saying, ‘Hey, I want you to shoot a video of me every day.’”