Jim Harbaugh Leaving Michigan for NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers

By Dan Hope on January 24, 2024 at 6:45 pm
Jim Harbaugh
Melanie Maxwell/USA TODAY Network

Jim Harbaugh is leaving Michigan to return to the NFL.

After nine years as Michigan’s head coach, Harbaugh is leaving the Wolverines to become the head coach of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.

"My love for Michigan, playing there and coming back to coach there, leaves a lasting impact. I'll always be a loyal Wolverine," Harbaugh said in the Chargers’ announcement of his hiring. "I'm remarkably fortunate to have been afforded the privilege of coaching at places where life's journey has created strong personal connections for me. From working as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky alongside my father, Jack, and time as an assistant with the Raiders, to being a head coach at USD, Stanford, the 49ers and Michigan — each of those opportunities carried significance, each felt personal. When I played for the Chargers, the Spanos family could not have been more gracious or more welcoming. Being back here feels like home, and it's great to see that those things haven't changed.

"The only job you start at the top is digging a hole, so we know we've got to earn our way. Be better today than yesterday. Be better tomorrow than today. My priorities are faith, family and football, and we are going to attack each with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. This organization is putting in the work — investing capital, building infrastructure and doing everything within its power to win. Great effort equals great results, and we're just getting started."

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement that Michigan offered Harbaugh a contract that would have made him the highest-paid coach in college football, but that Harbaugh decided he wanted to return to the NFL.

“We are working quickly to hire the next head coach for the program and will do everything possible to keep this current staff and team together,” Manuel said.

With Harbaugh’s departure, the transfer portal will now be open to Michigan players for the next 30 days.

Harbaugh’s departure from Michigan comes after he led the Wolverines to their first national championship since 1997. It also comes as the NCAA’s investigation into the Michigan football program remains ongoing, with potential sanctions looming for the program and/or Harbaugh himself after an impermissible in-person scouting scheme orchestrated by former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions was uncovered this past fall.

According to a report by KPRC’s Aaron Wilson, Harbaugh could bring Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh with him to Los Angeles. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that Harbaugh could also bring Michigan director of strength and conditioning Ben Herbert to the Chargers.

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is likely to be Michigan’s new head coach after he served as acting head coach while Harbaugh was suspended this past season, according to multiple reports.

By choosing to return to the NFL, where he previously coached the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, Harbaugh goes out on top. He led the Wolverines to three straight wins over Ohio State, three straight Big Ten championships and three straight College Football Playoff berths, culminating with a 15-0 season and a national title.

Harbaugh finishes his nine-year tenure at Michigan with an 86-25 overall record. Despite his success over the last three years, Harbaugh exits with a losing record against Ohio State as Harbaugh lost his first five games as head coach against the Buckeyes from 2015-19 before the 2020 edition of The Game was canceled.

For Ohio State, it’s likely a positive development that Harbaugh is leaving Ann Arbor given the success the Wolverines have had under his leadership over the past three years. However, it means the Buckeyes won’t have a chance to avenge their losses against Harbaugh when they host Michigan for the 2024 edition of The Game on Nov. 30 at Ohio Stadium.

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