The search for a new football coach is over.
Jim Harbaugh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach, was officially introduced as Michigan’s next head football coach at a press conference Tuesday.
Though several members of the University’s Board of Regents attended the introductory event Tuesday afternoon and have expressed they are pleased with the pick, Regent Kathy White (D) said the board only played an advisory role in the search process.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, White said the board’s role was one of basic oversight. Though Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett led the drive, the regents consulted with him throughout the process to ensure his work matched the University’s larger institutional goals.
She said the regents were careful to consider the new coach’s “reputational risk.”
“That’s where we are going to make sure that they can recruit, and not cheat, and that kind of stuff is really important,” she said. “But it’s not like we’re in there managing.”
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) acknowledged that the search process was marked by rumors of Harbaugh’s impending hire before the decision was finalized. She said the key to mitigating all the talk was avoiding it entirely.
“We went about dealing with the rumors by ignoring the rumors and listening to what we were being told and engaging in that conversation and as a group chose to stay out of the hubbub and not participate,” she said in an interview with the Daily.
The Athletic Department will pay Harbaugh $5 million annually as part of a seven-year contract, plus several incentive-based pay options and deferred compensation. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Harbaugh’s salary does not come out of the University’s general fund, but directly from athletics resources.
“Michigan is one of maybe a dozen or fewer Division 1 athletic programs in the nation that is 100 percent self-sufficient,” Fitzgerald said. “That means that there are no taxpayer dollars, there are no tuition dollars, there is no money diverted from the academic mission of the University to pay for athletics.”
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Harbaugh spoke to media for the first time about his new job. Among other goals regarding the team’s athletic accomplishments, Harbaugh said he would demand excellence both on and off the field from his players.
“I want to do a good job,” he said. “Want to be good. Want to win. We want to win at practice; we want to win on the practice field; we want to win in the classroom; we want to win in the community; we want to win on fall Saturday afternoons, and we’ll have great expectations for that.”
This statement follows candid remarks from University President Mark Schlissel last month in which he questioned the academic qualifications of some student-athletes recruited by the University. He later apologized for the comments and clarified his statements.
Though Schlissel is traveling with his family this week, Fitzgerald said the president spoke with Harbaugh by phone Tuesday morning and welcomed Harbaugh to the University.
During the press conference, Hackett explicitly thanked Schlissel for his counsel during the process.
Newman said the search for a new football coach was about more than just accumulating more wins on the field.
“It was important to all of us to find a coach who shared the values that are important to the University of Michigan,” she said. “And I think you heard Jim Harbaugh say that this morning: a commitment to excellence, both in academics and athletics.”
For White, who is also an Ann Arbor native, Harbaugh’s alignment with the University’s set of values also has to do with his connection to Ann Arbor and the school.
“The link that he has to the past links to the future, and I think that’s what’s nice … if you look at that press conference he talks about nostalgia,” she said. “Like when he was little, he went to Moe’s Sports Shop to buy gear. I used to do that. It’s the connection to the whole tradition.”
Regent Mark Bernstein (D) weighed in on the selection via Twitter.
“Great news for (Michigan) and Ann Arbor — proves this is a community where the best and brightest come to make an impact,” he wrote.
Overall, White said Harbaugh was the best choice based on both his record of success and his deep connection to the University. Referencing University lecturer John U. Bacon’s 2013 book, “Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football,” White noted college football’s community-building effect.
“In his book, it really talks about how college football has this mystique and it binds people together,” she said. “It’s this way that people are linked. (Harbaugh) just adds to that.”