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Jim Harbaugh to Michigan could change college football landscape

How badly does the University of Michigan want Jim Harbaugh as its next football coach? Even more so, if we’re going just by the money, than any school ever has wanted anybody. Is that dramatic enough for you?

But really, Harbaugh to Michigan would be one of the highest-profile and most important coaching hires in the modern history of the sport. And if it sounds like I’m overselling this thing, well, I’m not. I don’t have 48 million reasons for you, but the school’s reported six-year offer for that staggering amount of dough is one of many.

At roughly $8 million a year, the 49ers’ Harbaugh, a so-called “Michigan man” and former Bear, would make more than Alabama’s Nick Saban, for crying out loud. More than would-be rivals Urban Meyer of Ohio State and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, two of the highest-paid coaches in the country. More than anyone in the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC. More than any college coach ever — for the time being, anyway. A Harbaugh deal would send agents for the game’s leading coaches into a frenzy. Holy tuition increases, Batman.

The Wolverines need Harbaugh even more than the Bears do. One of college football’s greatest programs, an icon of icons, is a shell of its former self. Michigan stinks on the field and reeks even worse off it. OK, so let’s call it a tie with the Bears.

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, in particular, would be instantly revived and redefined. Think Harbaugh would be even slightly afraid of Meyer? Think he’d hesitate to stoke the flames of The Game with the kind of talk that would leave Buckeye Nation’s undies in a bunch? Think again. This would be Bo vs. Woody all over again, only with two arguably even more competitive guys.

And let’s face it: The Big Ten desperately needs Harbaugh at Michigan. Not only because the conference’s football rep has sagged for years now, but how ’bout those coaching changes we’ve already seen this offseason? Bo Pelini out at Nebraska; Mike Riley in. Gary Andersen out at Wisconsin; Paul Chryst in. For those of you scoring at home, let’s review their 2014 records: Andersen 10-3, Pelini 9-3, Chryst 6-6 (for the third season in a row) at Pittsburgh and Riley 5-7 at Oregon State.

Of course, Harbaugh has been no great shakes with the 49ers this season, but who are we kidding? This is a proven game-changer, a seismic scene-shifter we’re talking about, and his potential to fix what’s ailing Michigan is beyond obvious to anyone with a clue about the college game in general and the situation in Ann Arbor in particular.

Does that make Harbaugh worth $8 million a year to Michigan? Don’t think Alabama and Ohio State wouldn’t gladly pay Saban and Meyer that much if they had to. And don’t think they won’t be soon enough.