December 12, 2009
My first line of defense when it comes to coaching rumors is always, "Does that make sense?" I put myself in both the coach's shoes -- would I leave [current school] for [school in question] under current conditions? -- and the school's -- does [coach in question] have the resumé and temperament to measure up to this job? Under that test, I wrote off the Jim Harbaugh-to-Kansas speculation out of hand: If I was a clearly up-and-coming coach like Jim Harbaugh, I would not consider leaving Stanford for the vacancy at Kansas.
Besides the high standard of living in Palo Alto, Harbaugh has built a strong foundation that looks like it will have Stanford in Rose Bowl contention over the next few years, by which point some really high-paying, high-profile jobs -- his alma mater, Michigan, comes to mind -- could come calling. He was reportedly in the mix for the Notre Dame gig and is constantly rumored for NFL openings. Harbaugh would seem to have more attractive options than Kansas, including hanging around Stanford, where he went to high school and just added his dad to the coaching staff.
If you're Kansas, on the other hand, Harbaugh is a home run: A young, energetic, familiar name who turned around the worst program in the Pac-10. Kansas would love to bring in Harbaugh to cover up the stink of Mark Mangino's controversial exit, and more importantly, Kansas can pay to bring Harbaugh in. And according to separate reports by a local radio station and a local television station in Kansas City Friday night, they're only a few hours from doing just that:
[Two] sources have told 610 Sports Radio that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh will fly to Lawrence following Saturday's Heisman Trophy Ceremony to accept the deal to be the new Kansas Head Coach. He's expected to have an annual salary of $2.7 million a year.
KU athletic director Lew Perkins has vehemently denied that any offer has been made to any outlet that will listen -- to little effect, of course, in Jayhawk country. A local paper in Missouri tracked down Harbaugh's brother-in-law there, who managed to dispel and fuel the rumors at the same time: "He might accept the job, but as of right now, he has not agreed to anything."
Harbaugh has one big, obvious reason to take the Kansas job: His $750,000 salary at Stanford could nearly quadruple overnight. He also has a less obvious, sentimental reason to leave his own adolescent stomping grounds: His wife grew up near Kansas City.
But other Kansas coaching candidates have their own personal connections -- Buffalo's Turner Gill has a daughter at KU who just started working for the athletic department. And Gill's not coming off a breakthrough season at a comparable program with a star freshman quarterback who looks like has at least two All-America caliber seasons in front of him, as Harbaugh has in Andrew Luck -- just another reason to see through the rebuilding job he's already taken beyond expectations at Stanford rather than starting over with a new one at a program with no history of sustained success and no recruiting base. At bottom, the move to Kansas would be a straightforward money-grab for a guy who figures to have plenty more chances to make up the difference over the next few years. We should know by Monday morning how anxious he is for that payday.
[UPDATE, 1:52 p.m. ET] Not that anyone seems to take straightforward denials at face value anymore, but for the record, Harbaugh says he's not going anywhere, and has the freshly-signed contract extension to prove it:
STANFORD, Calif. – Jim Harbaugh wants to put an end to rumors linking him to other jobs, saying he will remain Stanford's football coach. Athletic director Bob Bowlsby said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday that Harbaugh signed a long-awaited three-year contract extension through the 2014 season "a while ago."
"Though the rumor mill has been running full gear, my resolve and future proudly remains as head coach at Stanford University," Harbaugh said in a statement issued Saturday. "The reports of the last 24 hours are untrue."
And since you can't believe anything these days unless it's on Twitter first:
Kansas has reportedly filled the vacancy, but at this point we have a better grasp on who it's not than who it is.