ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan Athletic Director kept fans in the loop until he decided this past January to invest long term in his football coach.
Jim Harbaugh is approaching his sixth year with his alma mater, but has gone 2-6 in the Wolverines last eight games overall. Although it’s not a trend the 53-year old Warde Manuel would normally approve, he still stands firm behind Harbaugh. After all, the former Michigan signal-caller is 49-22 with the program and his first losing campaign came with an asterisk next to it.
That doesn’t take away the fact that Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State. Not to mention the Wolverines have lost their last four bowl games to SEC teams. Manuel kept all that in mind when he extended Harbaugh’s contract through the 2025 season.
He’s not expecting an immediate turnaround from Harbaugh after the extension, but knows he’s a ‘Michigan Man’ and understands the lofty expectations from fans every year.
“Did I put a number in his first year, and the answer is no,” Manuel said. “I want him to move forward, build this and continue to drive us to have success in football.”
The situation is not a state of emergency, but at the end of the day the all-time winningest football program has to become elite again. Just look at what Juwan Howard has accomplished with the basketball team in just two seasons. He was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year and Michigan is potentially a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
“I think giving the contract obviously I’m willing to be patient, but he and I understand that we need to win,” he said. “This is Michigan, nobody wants to win more in football than Jim and I overall, we want success.”
Football programs across the Big Ten took a big revenue hit last season because of the pandemic and no fans were allowed in the stands. However, Michigan has conducted over 80,000 COVID tests and the percentage was extremely low with positive results.
Manuel is proud that all of Michigan’s staff and student athletes took the initiative through the grueling process. Which is why he plans on having fans back in the Big House this fall. Manuel emphasized nothing has been finalized and everyone is still working through budget restraints, but the foreseeable outlook is positive.
The final word will come from the Big Ten Presidents and the State of Michigan health officials. Even better news is the Wolverines have started spring practice. Despite Manuel not attending any in person, he’s hearing great things from Harbaugh.
“I’m excited about it, he and I have talked and spring ball is going very well,” Manuel said. “The level of excitement, the level of engagement by the student athletes and staff is all positive, and that’s what we need.”
Manuel is also pleased with the staff Harbaugh has assembled during the offseason and believes they’re all great additions. The two discussed the changes together and Manuel gave his input. At the end of the day Harbaugh made the final decision because he’s the one who has to coach.
It’s obvious Manuel is in it with Harbaugh for the long haul, which is a reflection of the contract extension. Now he just wants the team to continue working hard so they can win games this fall.