Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh expects to return to the Wolverines in 2023, he said in a statement Thursday that stopped just short of outright committing to his alma mater for the future. Harbaugh has been recently as the league's regular season draws to a close, including the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.
"I am aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days," said Harbaugh. "College and NFL teams have had great interest in all our personnel, from players to coaches to staff, and I truly belive that is a testament to the strength of our University of Michigan football program. As I stated in December, while no one knows that the future holds, I expect that I will enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023. I have spoken with president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program. Our mission as Wolverines continues, and we are preparing for the 2023 season with great passion and enthusiasm. As our legendary coach Bo Schembechler said ... those who stay will be champions."
Harbaugh spoke with Panthers owner David Tepper about the team's vacant coach position, according to ESPN, though the conversation was not characterized as a formal interview. Harbaugh then told the Queen City News that "Although no one knows the future, I think I will be coaching Michigan next year,"
The Denver Broncos were also among the teams "doing homework" on Harbaugh as a potential candidate to fill their coaching vacancy, according to NFL Network. Harbaugh washis alma mater if offered a chance to return to the pros, according to The Athletic.
Harabugh is 74-25 with Michigan and led the Wolverines to back-to-back Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances. He was previously 44-19-1 in four seasons at the helm of the San Francisco 49ers (2011-14).
Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings last season, but returned to Ann Arbor and reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolverines. He agreed to a five-year contract with Michigan last February and suggested that annual flirtations with the NFL would not become standard operating procedure.
That's clearly not been the case considering his most recent statement gives him plenty of wiggle room to jump to the NFL without contradiction. By saying he "expects" to coach the Wolverines in 2023, Harbaugh leaves the door wide open for, say, an NFL team to make him an offer he can't refuse.
Expect this story to remain a hot topic for the next week -- or longer. The NFL's regular season ends this Sunday, and there are bound to be even more coaching vacancies on top of those that already exist. If NFL teams get into a bidding war with each other for Harbaugh's services, those expectations might change in a hurry.
The demands on college coaches have changed drastically since Harbaugh arrived at Michigan in 2015. Because of the one-time free transfer rule, along with two annual windows for transfer portal entry, coaches must constantly work on roster management. That, in addition to high school recruiting that now has two signing periods, has truly made college coaching a nonstop grind. That is in direct opposition to the NFL, which has a very formulaic calendar that doesn't change on a year-by-year basis.
What will Harbaugh do? We'll have to wait a few weeks to find out.