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The University of Michigan is flexing its muscles in the center of a stage it's never been on. It is not challenging Wisconsin or Purdue. It is standing toe to toe with the powerful NFL.

The Wolverines always talk about being among the leaders and best, a false premise that fires up its fans into actually believing this is an elite program. But now the Wolverines are putting their money where their mouths are.

Michigan is willing to make San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh the highest paid college coach. Michigan has reportedly offered Harbaugh a contract worth $48 million over six years.

That is big statement that smacks you in the face and allows you to take notice.

Money talks.

The NFL has taken notice. The Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins need him, but they know they cannot come in with a weak offer. Michigan upped the ante.

If the reports are correct, UM is screaming loud and clear that it wants this man. This is not about hiring a great coach and winning Big Ten titles. The Wolverines are saying they want to be elite.

They don't merely want to be on par with Michigan State, Alabama or Ohio State. Michigan wants to win national championships and be mentioned alongside Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.

By making this offer Michigan has put itself in a position where it cannot lose.

If it gets Harbaugh, it will be part of a Big Ten division that has three elite coaches that will turn it into a game of Mortal Kombat. Ohio State's Urban Meyer is elite. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio is elite and so is Harbaugh.

Games between Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State would be outstanding. These are three guys who are not only great coaches but will even make weekly press conferences pay per view events.

Michigan needs Harbaugh. It cannot go 0-3 in coaching hires after Lloyd Carr left. Rich Rodriguez did not fit in and Brady Hoke was in over his head. Harbaugh has been the target from day one. The question is: will he say "no" to the NFL and say "yes" to Michigan?

I have no idea. Nobody but Harbaugh knows what he will do.

Let's say Harbaugh is an NFL guy and does not follow his heart to Michigan. The Wolverines still win.

They've told the world that they are serious about winning and actually becoming leaders and the best.

tfoster@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/terryfoster971

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