Despite woes on the field and a 2-4 record this past season, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Tuesday he has not given football coach Jim Harbaugh a minimum win requirement for the 2021 season and that he's willing to think long-term with Harbaugh's employment.
Manuel gave Harbaugh a contract extension in January that will see him coach the Wolverines through 2025. The new deal has a reconfigured salary and bonus structure that reduces Harbaugh's base salary to $4 million in 2021 from slightly over $8 million in 2020 but allows for him to add up to $3.475 million in bonuses each season.
"Given the contract, obviously I am willing to be patient," Manuel said. "But he and I understand that we need to win. This is Michigan, nobody wants to win more than Jim in football, and me overall. We want success, so did I put a number to his first year? The answer is no."
Manuel said he didn't have a backup plan going into extension conversations with Harbaugh and went into the meetings as he does with every other head coach at Michigan. The two spoke about how to move forward and improve the team.
Part of that process for Harbaugh has been adding assistant coaches to the roster, including co-defensive coordinators Mike Macdonald and Maurice Linguist, linebackers coach George Helow, running backs coach Mike Hart and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss.
"Very proud of the work [Harbaugh has] been doing with the staff that he's put together," Manuel said. "Some new and some consistent, but I'm excited about it. He and I have talked; spring ball is going very well.
"I have not had a chance to go to any spring practices at this point, but I have talked to him and I'm excited about what I'm hearing from him, the level of excitement, the level of engagement by the student-athletes and staff, it is all positive, and that's what we need."
Manuel spoke to Harbaugh this offseason about staff changes, providing some input, but said he ultimately left decisions on personnel up to Harbaugh.
While there is excitement around the new faces, Manuel knows it needs to translate to wins on the field. He can't predict the future and what will happen during the upcoming season, but he is encouraged by what he has seen and the conversations he has had with Harbaugh.
That has all led Manuel to have the confidence in Harbaugh into the foreseeable future without worry of a hot seat looming.
"I want him to move forward and build this and continue to drive us to have success in football," Manuel said. "Again, nobody wants to have more success in the sport of football at the University of Michigan than Jim Harbaugh. And so, for me, he has that flexibility, he has that space to continue to drive success here.
"Whether it's with his staff or recruiting, those things are, it's not a short-term play for me."
When asked what the expectation is for Harbaugh, Manuel simply replied, "Win."