Michigan football Paris trip cost donors just more than $1 million

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh gives a thumbs-up to the trip to Paris.

Two donors – who had wished to remain anonymous until Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh revealed their identities – split the bill for the Wolverines’ spring trip to Paris, which came to just more than $1 million.

This was the second spring Harbaugh has taken the team overseas. The Wolverines visited Rome in 2016. Finances for both trips were covered by donors.

The final numbers, released by the university through a Freedom of Information Act fulfilled Friday to The Detroit News, were: $979,641 for the Paris trip expenses and $27,627 for security services -- a grand total of $1,007,268.

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Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, following a Regents meeting in late June, said the cost of the Paris trip would be “somewhere around $800,000, $900,000.”

Harbaugh has said the team will visit South Africa next spring, a tremendously more ambitious trip in terms of travel.

“We’re working on it,” Manuel said in June of visiting South Africa. “I don’t know what confirm means with you guys. We haven’t booked any tickets, there’s no hotel rooms that are secured. We haven’t hired any tours.

“We talked about this three years ago when we first started talking about doing these things. South Africa came up in conversation as it related to a particular possible site. We’re still working on it.”

Michigan big-money alums Bobby Kotick and Don Graham split the Paris bill after Kotick paid for last year’s trip to Rome that was estimated to be in the $800,000 range.

Following a visit to the Eiffel Tower, Harbaugh spilled the beans, although the donors had never wanted to be revealed.

“Two great Michigan guys, especially Bobby. They’re the best,” Harbaugh said in Paris. “Bobby doesn’t want anything said. He doesn’t want anybody to know that, but it’s a hard secret to keep.”

Kotick is CEO of Activision Blizzard, the company behind the popular “Call of Duty” video-game series. Graham is founder of The Graham Group, an alliance of industrial businesses and investment-management firms. Kotick was a co-honorary captain during a 2016.

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Harbaugh, in mid-May shortly after the trip, said during a stop in Toledo that the donors were miffed he revealed their names.

“A little bit," Harbaugh said. "They genuinely wanted it to be anonymous. I mean genuinely. I apologize. I got a little emotional. Just very thankful. We all felt that way. We were all appreciative."

It was a whirlwind week-long visit to Paris. In Rome, Michigan practiced three times, but Harbaugh and his staff opted to make Paris a sightseeing-only trip.

The trip concluded with a full-team walk from the Wolverines’ hotel about a mile and a half to the Eiffel Tower and then a visit to the U.S. Embassy. Among the other stops during the trip, the Wolverines visited the Louvre and Versailles, they traveled to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and cemetery, and they participated in a community service project.

Senior safety Tyree Kinnel said it was an incredible team-bonding excursion.

“Just being here with the team, just sticking together as a team and doing everything as a team and learning each other a little bit more than we normally do than just going to camp and practice all the time and classes,” Kinnel said. “We get to know a little bit more about each other on this trip.”