Syndication: Detroit Free Press

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is weighing a massive contract offer to stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that contains a huge catch. The university is presenting Harbaugh a contract extension that would make him the highest-paid coach in college football but would preclude him from pursuing an NFL job for the 2024 season, according to NFL Network

While the clause limiting NFL interest would only last one season, it's apparently been enough to prevent the two sides from reaching an agreement. The Wolverines' contract proposal is for 10 years and $125 million, which would eclipse Dabo Swinney's $115 million contract for the biggest in college football history. Alabama coach Nick Saban cleared $11.4 million to become the highest-paid coach in college football in 2023. Michigan reportedly has also offered a shorter-term $11 million contract. 

Harbaugh has transformed Michigan into a national power throughout a nine-year tenure at his alma mater.  The Wolverines went eight years without a top-10 finish before he took over as coach. Michigan is set to record its fourth top-10 finish after entering the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 overall seed. Harbaugh is the first Michigan coach to win three consecutive Big Ten championships since Gary Moeller from 1990-92. 

Harbaugh has pursued NFL coaching jobs consistently since he took over the Wolverines, and noise has reached fever pitch during UM's rise to national prominence. After the 2021 season, Harbaugh heavily pursued a position with the Minnesota Vikings. After Minnesota hired Kevin O'Connell, he claimed to the Detroit Free Press that this would be the last time he pursued an NFL position. 

One year later, Harbaugh went on to meet with the Denver Broncos to pursue their vacancy. Sean Payton was ultimately hired as Denver coach. If Harbaugh does not sign the contract, he could be a candidate for open jobs in 2024. 

Complicating matters, Harbaugh has had a difficult year off the field at Michigan. He was suspended twice -- once self-imposed, once by the Big Ten -- for separate incidents of rule breaking and coached only six regular-season games. Michigan received a notice of allegations this week regarding illegal coaching and recruiting practices during the COVID-19 dead period. The NCAA is also investigating Michigan and former analyst Connor Stalions over allegations of illegal in-person recruiting and sign stealing. 

Michigan loses a number of key contributors after the 2023 season, including running back Blake Corum, top receivers Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson, all five starting offensive linemen and at least seven starters on defense. The Wolverines enter the College Football Playoff as an early favorite to win the national championship but enter a rebuilding cycle in 2024. 

The Wolverines play No. 4 Alabama at 5 p.m. ET on New Year's Day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The winner earns a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship against either No. 3 Texas or No. 2 Washington on Monday, Jan. 8.