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Jim Harbaugh Might Be Leveraging Recent Success, Forcing Michigan To Rethink Its Approach To NIL

The NIL Conversation Surrounding Jim Harbaugh and The University Of Michigan

In the last few days, I have read a lot on Twitter regarding the University of Michigan failing to capitalize on name, image, and likeness (NIL) as compared to other top universities such as Texas A&M (an SEC School), whose boosters (not the school) reportedly spent upwards of $30M to land the number one recruiting class in college football according to 247 Sports composite rankings for the class of 2022.

The Motivation behind the University of Michigan NIL conversation is being driven by the potential that it's Head Football Coach Jim

Harbaugh is considering a move to the NFL. Many have speculated or believe he will not make a move to the NFL, where he coached prior to becoming the Michigan Head Football coach in 2015. Many are citing his love for the University of Michigan, a school he played football at, and became an All-American in the '80s. But the reality is, he accepted a pay cut after a losing season in 2020, with a lower buyout. Many believe the lower buyout was put in place so that the University could move on from Jim at a lower cost if the 2021 season were to go poorly.

Why Is Jim Harbaugh Relevant To The Topic?

Instead, Jim Harbaugh had his best season while at Michigan. In fact, his 12-2 finish, win against Ohio State, the Big Ten Championship, and Michigan's first College Football Playoff appearance are also highlighted by the changes Harbaugh made to half of his coaching staff in the off-season. The projections across the landscape had Michigan winning at most 8 or 9 games and losing to Ohio State again. Jim overachieved, and therefore his stock has risen considerably.

Jim Harbaugh's Motivation According to Sources

Michigan Football has a great football coach who wants to remain at its school, and if the rumored thought is that the school is behind other high-level programs on the NIL landscape and dragging their feet to innovate, it is no wonder Jim Harbaugh might be considering a move back to the NFL. There are some sources closer to Jim that have alluded to the idea Jim Harbaugh is leveraging his current increased value to force the University into implementing a more aggressive NIL educational approach.

What Is Holding Michigan Back From Using NIL To Its Benefit?

There is confusion on the topic of NIL and what a school can and cannot do. For starters, each state regulates and can legislate its own NIL policies. Some states have no legislation at all, and some have stepped up with legislation to serve as guidance on how each college and University can navigate the NIL waters. As you may or may not know, the NCAA decided to not regulate NIL back in 2021, empowering each of their member institutions to implement their own NIL policies based on the state's NIL legislation in which they reside. Therefore, the University of Michigan stands in its own way.

Michigan Has One Of The Largest Alumni Bases Worldwide

The University of Michigan is a solid example of a school with unlimited resources whose alumni base consists of Stephen M. Ross (Miami Dolphins Owner) and Larry Page (Google Co-Founder) as two amazing examples. With more than 600k alumni, Michigan has a lot of untapped opportunities to be the leaders and best at NIL.

The resources in the NIL world are not just limited to massive corporate structures; they are ultimately driven by smaller businesses; I use Ohio State as an example; there is a local third-party company (not sure if they are University affiliated) that connects student-athletes with local Columbus, Ohio based businesses. Michigan has a lot of very similar opportunities in Ann Arbor and Detroit's surrounding areas.

If Jim Harbaugh is Championing A Better NIL Approach, He is Championing it For More Than Football.

If Jim Harbaugh is, in fact, leveraging his best season as Michigan

Football coach to improve Michigan's standing on the NIL landscape, it would not be a surprise. Jim donated all of his bonus money earned from its Big Ten Title and appearance in the College Football Playoff back to the Michigan Athletic Department to fund those who lost wages during the pandemic. If Jim is successful, he will benefit not only the football program but the entire athletic department, including non-revenue-generating sports.

NIL Is More Than Fast Money; it Is About The Long Game

While many look at NIL as a way to gain a competitive advantage on the playing field by luring top talent via monetary potential, it is the investment in the education of those who will not benefit in the short term. The majority of student-athletes will not benefit from NIL in the shorter term, but the importance of providing a higher level of NIL brand-building education is important and provide a lasting marketing opportunity for the student-athletes who will not be going pro in their respective sport.

Providing student-athletes and their parents with the comfort that their kids are going to be provided a world-class education, combined with best in class NIL brand building strategies that connect them with future employers and marketing opportunities, is paramount and can take Michigan Athletics to a whole new level in a changing world where providing the most value can be your biggest asset.

What Most Fans Care about With Regard To NIL is Winning, And Winning Keeps You Relevant

The reality, fans are not interested in anything but the winning aspect. Therefore most are on the internet forums complaining about the lack of NIL focus Michigan Football has had. It is warranted, and in order for all non-revenue generating sports to flourish, Michigan Football and basketball, both of which fund the non-revenue sports, must remain relevant. Therefore, it only benefits the University of Michigan to support its athletic department and its ability to adapt to the changing NIL era.

Jim Harbaugh's Innovative Mindset Is Undervalued

What Jim Harbaugh is doing only adds to his innovative reputation. When Jim Harbaugh was in the NFL with the Colts in the late 90's, his dad (Jack), who coached at Western Kentucky, invited Jim to assist him in recruiting during Jim's offseason. Western Kentucky, a 1AA school at the time, recruited more in their state or regionally. That's where Jim provided value, he bought a van, he then went to Florida and drove recruits back to Western Kentucky for visits. With the talent influx from that, Jack Harbaugh would win a Championship. Now Jim doesn't deserve all the credit, but it is a testament to his innovative mindset.

When Jim took the Michigan job in 2015, he implemented a satellite camp circuit covering several states across America. The idea, take camps to the players instead of leaving stones unturned for the players who cannot afford to travel to out-of-state camps.

Does The University of Michigan Desire Innovation In Athletics As Much As Jim Harbaugh, We Are About To Find Out

In any field, you have to provide your employees with the resources necessary to be successful. It is no different in this circumstance. For Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh guided Michigan back to its peak of success in its current state in 2021 by hiring a more youthful, talented coaching staff. He is now ready to innovate once again, knowing that Michigan has a mountain to climb if they are going to win a National Title in football after being dominated by a Georgia Football Team loaded with top-five recruiting class after top-five recruiting class. In order to bridge that gap, Michigan Football has to innovate. The question is, are they as invested as Jim is to take Michigan one step further?


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