All offseason long we wondered what would happen at Michigan if the Wolverines failed to climb to the elite again in 2019. We reached that point on Saturday, when Wisconsin flattened Michigan 35-14 in Madison.
The loss dropped Michigan to 40-15 under Jim Harbaugh, which is better than the maize and blue were at the same point under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez but still a step off where the program expects to be.
Michigan has won lots of games under Harbaugh, but almost none of the games that matter.
Perhaps most telling, former Wolverines are now publicly ripping the program.
All that said, Michigan committed itself to Harbaugh when he rode in from San Francisco in the winter of 2014. AD Warde Manuel said he wants Harbaugh to retire a Wolverine. The school pays the premiums on Harbaugh's life insurance policy.
Harbaugh's contract, signed Dec. 28, 2014 and lasting three days after the conclusion of Michigan's 2021 season, calls for a base salary of $500,000 and an additional compensation of $4.5 million. That combined figure jumped 10 percent on Jan. 11, 2018 and will jump another 10 percent on Jan. 11, 2020.
Beyond that, his contract is fully guaranteed.
Thanks to two scheduled raises, Harbaugh's salary sits at $6 million for 2020 and 2021, the last two years of his contract, placing his buyout at $12 million.
The contract does include language requiring Harbaugh to put in a good-faith effort to secure new employment in the event Michigan does move on and his buyout would be mitigated by the salary he earned at a hypothetical new coaching position, but Michigan is indeed officially on the hook for Harbaugh's entire contract.
Getting out of Harbaugh's contract would be messy and expensive, and this doesn't approach the additional costs of buying out Harbaugh's assistants nor the cost of bringing in an entirely new coaching staff.
Clearly, the cleanest path forward for both sides is for Harbaugh to figure out how to beat Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State, and quickly.