Why Jim Harbaugh should be every assistant coach’s favorite head coach

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Earlier this month Don Brown called Jim Harbaugh the greatest head coach in college football.

That the man’s defensive coordinator would say that about him isn’t surprising, but Brown’s opinion should be adopted by every other assistant coach at the FBS level because no head coach is doing more to provide stability for his assistants than The Khaki’d One.

Harbaugh has taken two steps none of his peers have so far:

  1. He’s the only head coach to pay three of his assistants at least $1 million a year.
  2. He’s the only head coach to offer 5-year contracts.

Michigan released documents Tuesday showing Brown, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton will all join the $1 million club next season.

Brown inked a 5-year worth $1 million in the first four years and $1.4 million in 2021, with a total of $1.4 million in retention bonuses waiting to be claimed as well.

Drevno will make an even $1 million throughout the contract, with a $150,000 bonus headed his way simply for signing the deal.

Hamilton, hired just last week, has signed a 4-year contract paying him $1 million in the first three years and $1.25 million in 2020, with retention bonuses of $450,000 after the 2018 season and $250,000 after ’19.

Now, the obvious caveats. Michigan enjoys plenty of luxuries other programs do not. The maize and blue paid Harbaugh $9 million last season. They’ll have three $1 million assistants in 2017; the rest of college football employed 12, total, in 2016. This is a program that¬†hired away¬†an NFL assistant head coach to become a position coach. Again, the Cleveland Browns hired Hamilton away from his offensive coordinator job with the Indianapolis Colts, planted an assistant head coach title on his head and wanted to keep him, and still Michigan hired him away. (Insert Browns joke here.)

Clearly, not many college programs can do that.

But there are plenty of other programs that can.

Clemson could offer 4- and 5-year contracts to its top assistants, if it wanted. So could Alabama. And Ohio State. And Texas. Take your pick.

Tuesday’s news won’t reset the market by itself. But it did set a precedent. Precedents matter, and Jim Harbaugh just made a hell of a big one.