Would No Harbaugh Clear Way for Miles to U-M?

In our latest search rumblings piece we provide our Michigan Man stock report. Are either Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles trending positively for Michigan? Plus word on two sleepers that are quietly rising up the list, coaches that either have or will take their names out of the running, and a few NFL names of note.

Michigan Man Stock Report

Jim Harbaugh remains at the top of Michigan’s list.  Lloyd Carr publicly stifling any suspicion that he would provide opposition to the former quarterback’s return is another hurdle cleared (even if it was just in the minds of fans and/or those in the Harbaugh camp) to clear.  That has to improve the Maize & Blue’s chances at least somewhat. However, it doesn’t signify anything imminent.  We received further confirmation in recent days that no titanic 10-year 80 million contract offer was made.  Michigan is definitely preparing to pay market value for its next coach… a dollar figure that could surpass what they’ve paid prior coaches by a significant amount… but talk that they were preparing to pay more than Nick Saban or even Bill Belichick receive was laughed off as “ridiculous” by one well-placed source.  Michigan isn’t making an issue of money, but it sounds like they won’t be in the business of paying more than any other college football program in history either.

When it comes to a Harbaugh return to Ann Arbor, the ball is squarely in his court. Friends hoping to aid Michigan in its pitch (even if indirectly) are telling him he could be the savior at his alma mater and make 5-6 million dollars per year in the process. The Wolverines will just have to wait and see if that’s more appealing to him than fulfilling his professional aspirations.  Talking him into foregoing that pro dream for at least a few years is something two strong Harbaugh sources still believe will be more difficult than previously to accomplish.

But difficult does not mean impossible.  And one of the aforementioned sources said, "by no means has he decided anything. He hasn't decided 'no' and he hasn't decided 'yes.' He is focused on his current job."

The question is how long will Michigan wait for an answer. A few sources have laid out a timeline that has the first week of New Year as the drop dead date, but Christmas as the more desirable cutoff. So we’re left to interpret what that means.

Here’s my stab at it.

If Michigan goes past the Christmas holiday without a naming a coach it’ll likely reflect their confidence in landing a target from the pro ranks (which most likely would be Harbaugh, but there are some other slim possibilities that we’ll discuss below).  If they name a coach before Christmas odds are it’s because they weren’t given enough positive feedback from Harbaugh to chance the wait.

Many believe that a pass on or by Harbaugh would swing the door wide open for LSU headman Les Miles, but that just doesn’t appear to be the case at this point.  Simply put, the Miles train has no momentum.  Despite public proclamations of his lack of interest in Michigan, many that know him are adamant that he would reciprocate interest if alma mater showed him any. Friends of the “Mad Hatter” that still reside in the Great Lake State insist that still hasn’t happened yet.

Michigan Will Run the Ball

The impression Michigan is giving off in the early stages of its search is that it definitely prefers coaches that employ traditional smash mouth attacks. That doesn’t exclude the spread since there are systems that spread to run, but the scales are tipped in favor of schemes predicated on a power run game.  That word is out there strong enough at this point that coaching candidates from the same agent tree have seen the buzz on them shift abruptly in recent days.  Earlier in the week there were rumblings that UCLA headman Jim Mora, a Jimmy Sexton client, could rise up Michigan’s list. Now fellow Sexton client Greg Schiano is the one generating the majority of buzz. Word here in Ann Arbor and out east in New Jersey (and we’ll have more from that neck of the woods later) is that the Schiano camp is lobbying extremely hard for the job.  While he certainly shouldn’t be thought of as challenging for favorite status, he is unquestionably a tangible presence on the radar.

So too is Boston College’s Steve Addazio. For a few reasons we’ve already mentioned (coaching at an academic institution, style of play) his name is being mentioned more and more in Ann Arbor.  An additional attribute is he’d offer a pre-existing connection to one of the top candidates for Michigan’s permanent athletic director post in former Michigan football walk-on, and current Boston College athletic director Brad Bates.  Those handicapping this race would be wise to put Addazio’s name higher on the board.

Staying Put?

Butch Jones may employ the spread at Tennessee, but his is a spread to run system.  Because of that and his extensive Michigan ties there was/(still is?) definite interest on Michigan’s part.  But talk of Michigan being his dream job just hasn’t translated into interest from his side of the ledger. According to one source, Jones’ hesitancy is based in large part on his fear of a lack of administrative support in Ann Arbor.  He is well aware of Rich Rodriguez’s experience with that issue thanks to their relationship (Jones worked for Rodriguez at West Virginia), and he is also aware of many of the issues that emerged after Rodriguez thanks to his associate A.D. over football, Mike Vollmar.  Vollmar held that same job in Ann Arbor for the first two years of Brady Hoke’s tenure.  Barring a sudden shift in momentum, Jones’ candidacy will decrease more and more… possibly until he signs an extension with and gets a pay raise from the Volunteers.

There is talk that Arkansas’ Bret Bielema could also be in line for a raise/extension from his employer.  He already publicly mentioned negotiating raises and extensions for his assistants, and that process began BEFORE his name started being mentioned with the Nebraska opening. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, a former Michigan athletic department official, is supposedly being proactive in protecting his program’s interests.  So this one looks like a long shot.

The same can certainly be said for Stanford’s David Shaw, but he’s a possibility that Michigan might choose to explore more thoroughly anyway. He’s at his alma mater and he has tremendous job security, but if it looks like Harbaugh won’t happen don’t be surprised if Michigan seeks a definite “no” from Shaw before it simply assumes he won’t say yes.

NFL Options?

Are there any besides Harbaugh? Yes. The other Harbaugh’s name has been talked about more in Ann Arbor in recent days.  That has given the outward impression that Michigan could look to him if his little brother says no thanks.

Other than that we previously mentioned the name of arguably the hottest assistant in the National Football League, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.  A few others the Wolverines could look into are New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, and Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator (and former Wisconsin quarterback) Darrell Bevell.


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