ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh will not be able to coach in Michigan football’s season opener, but he will be available coaching the team all week in preparation.
Suspended for the first three games of the season, Harbaugh has something else on his mind: student-athlete revenue sharing.
On Monday, Harbaugh opened up his weekly press conference with a five-plus minute monologue about the state of college football and why he feels like the NCAA needs to cut players into the revenue sharing now. He also addressed how he’s handling his suspension and the uncertainty that comes with not being on the sidelines.
Here is everything Harbaugh said on Monday.
Thank you. Thanks for coming. I want to start off today, the last time we met, you asked me some questions about the state of college football issues. And thinking about that, and having the opportunity to write down my thoughts with clarity, I’d like to take this time to share them with you.
These are my views. My opinions. As I’ve seen college football, college sports, take shape since my days as a student-athlete, and now as a current coach, I want to take this opportunity to speak about the big picture, much bigger than any one game, bigger than any game this season. The issues I see affecting college athletics, college football, and more specifically, the student-athletes, the talent — the big one. I want to mention, first started mentioning back in 2020, and then again in 2022, at the Big Ten media days. I continue to advocate for that today, a system of revenue sharing with the student-athletes. I’m aware and understand and when someone speaks out in defense of those without a voice, attempts are made to diminish the individual’s character and credibility. As a former player and current coach, mentoring many of these student-athletes, what I wanted to do is be a voice for the student-athletes. I want them to be treated with the respect and the dignity that they deserve.
What I don’t understand is how the NCAA television networks, conferences, universities, and coaches can continue to pull in millions and in some cases, billions of dollars, in revenue off the efforts of college student-athletes across the country without providing enough opportunity to share in the ever-increasing revenues. When student-athletes call it a game, the corporate types call it a business. When the student-athletes call it a business, corporate types call it a game.
I am aware of what Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said, and I quote, ‘I think the decision-making lost its way in terms of the focus on the student-athlete and what’s primarily best for them. But we are where we are, we have to try to make it work.’ And we do, we have to try to make it work, we have to try to make it better. And right now, the current status quo is unacceptable and won’t survive. In my opinion, when we capitalize on talent, we should pay the talent for their contributions to the bottom line. The game of football has evolved since inception, and dramatically started to change in the 1970s. At that time, one game a week was televised. Today, every game during the 12-week regular season is broadcast. In the major conferences, every game is nationally televised to millions of households and sold-out stadiums every Saturday. Why wouldn’t we let the student-athletes share in the success of their sport?
And we all should be about diversity, equity and inclusion and calling for a system that is fair, equitable, and benefits all involved. Don’t exclude the student-athletes from the profits. In my opinion, you can’t say you’re about diversity, equity and inclusion if you aren’t willing to include the student-athletes in revenue sharing. And it’s just a short-sighted view of history to presume a system of revenue sharing would topple the current structure.
Look at some of the companies who have implemented revenue sharing: Amazon, UPS to US Steel to name a few. I just watched that movie ‘Air.’ Deloris Jordan wouldn’t let her son, Michael Jordan, sign an endorsement deal without Nike sharing in the revenue. I think we can all agree that it worked out pretty well for Nike.
As an NFL player, I was part of the change in NFL free agency rules and profit sharing with the town. I lived it, I benefited from it. So did thousands and thousands of players that followed. I think we can all agree that the organizations and the NFL as league and corporate entities have benefited greatly as well.
I’m not saying that I have all the answers. What I’m hoping to accomplish today is sparking constructive conversation, and timely action within, between the NCAA conferences, coaches, universities, certainly a group representing the student-athletes, as well as experts in legal minds who specialize in revenue sharing. Thank you for allowing me to share that with you.
So, something beyond NIL?
Correct. Not enough ways. More, more for the student-athletes. And as I said, a system that’s fair, and treats student-athletes with the respect and the dignity that they deserve.
How would it happen?
People gotta get in a room. And it’s got to be the NCAA, the universities who is the voice for the student-athletes, and encourage other coaches to help be that voice. But I don’t know exactly how that sausage is gonna get made. But the current system, the status quo, we just can’t keep kicking this can down the road. It’s got to change. And it’s got to happen timely now.
What's preventing the Big Ten from profit sharing now?
As I said, I don’t have all the answers. Experts, legal minds, if there’s legal minds that have to be thinking about that. Those that are the most expert legal minds and all involved need to figure those issues out.
Has he talked to Warde Manuel about this?
Well, those all those conversations are privileged. Just as I said at the beginning, these are these are my thoughts. These are my opinions. These are not the opinions of anybody else, or the university other than my own.
What bothers him most about the status quo?
For the student-athletes across the country, not just my team, not just our sport, but student-athletes, in every sport across the country, the talent to share in the ever-expanding revenues of college athletics.
What if it doesn't change?
I don’t know. Now’s the time to address it. It’s been in it’s overdue. It’s overdue
Has he shared this with any player families?
I really haven’t shared this with anybody. Again, my views, my opinions, from what I’ve seen, the experience from my days as a student-athlete through playing professionally to coach both professional and college.
Will change happen?
Those groups have to get together. So that again, that’s the plan. The plan you asked me what I think, the plan was experts, legal minds, the NCAA, universities — there has to be certainly has to be student-athletes have to be represented and have a voice. Coaches. I’m gonna help be that voice for those that don’t have a voice right now.
How has a lack of revenue sharing impacted the players?
I think you see the same thing going on with the screenwriters right now. I mean, the talent. Who do we all go to watch? We all go to see those efforts of those individuals that are playing, that are the talent and they need to share in the profits.
Could there be a player strike?
I don’t think this current system is going to survive in the status quo — it’s unacceptable. That’s my opinion. Going into anything else would be speculation.
Why discuss this now?
This is something I’ve long talked about, as I mentioned. I just didn’t wake up this morning and decide to share. This goes back to 2020, 2022.
Does this have anything to do with conference expansion?
It’s the elephant in the room. So it needs to be needs to be talked about constructively, and action needs to be taken.
Why didn't he talk about it before?
I did talk about last year at the Big Ten media days and 2022 also talked about it and in May of 2020. And now before the season starts, not game three, not game four — now. Because I believe action needs to be taken now.
How is he going to watch the first three games of the season?
I haven’t decided yet.
Why have four head coaches in three games?
Because I know how good they are. As I said, all 10 coaches, I believe, are tremendous, and talented. And I think it’s what’s best for our team. And they’re going to be able — a tremendous opportunity for each one of them to have the experience of managing the game. We’re going to have Jesse come up and in a few moments and talk about that and I think you’d be more than satisfied. Well-documented how good our coaches are for that reason.
Also, the why one each game? Because I know each time that a coach is the head coach, I know the preparation is going to be the fullest, at the max and that’s going to be the best thing for our football team. When you’re the head coach during a game and you’re the guardian of victory, that’s a tremendous responsibility. And you understand complementary football. It’s not just defense. It’s not just offense. It’s not just about special teams — it’s the whole team and they’re gonna be great at it and be I think it’s the best thing for our team.
His father being an assistant coach
That’s not new. Just will continue for my dad ever since ever since I got here, since he came in 2016 and moved in right next door. He watches every play, every practice. He’s one of the coaches in the building, probably the most that I go to, ‘Dad what do you think about this?’ ‘Well, here’s what we did. Here’s what we did when I was coaching here, here, and I don’t know if that’s the right thing for you. And I go, ‘That’s the perfect thing. You just saved me three hours of a migraine headache of trying to figure this out by what by what you just said.’ And I just go ahead and implement it.
I’ve been doing that my whole life. It’s my dad, that’s my best friend. And I’ve done, I Do what he tells me to do when he tells me to do it, how he tells me to do it. And things just keep working out well for me. So I’m just gonna keep rolling with that.
Offensive tackle and cornerback starters
Yeah, we’re still we’re still sorting that out. Pretty close.
How difficult will it be to watch not from the sidelines?
I don’t know yet. I really don’t know yet. There’s a chance my son Jack’s team’s gonna be playing at the same time. I don’t know — if he’s playing I’ll go watch that game. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll watch on TV. If I won’t be able to watch it. I can’t predict what it’s going to be at the time.
I mean, this is uncharted waters for me. You know, as a college player, I had my arm broken. Missed six games, I think it was? As a pro player, I don’t think I ever missed three in a row. And I had all kinds of injuries. I mean, ribs, broken fingers, things like that. Concussions never kept me out of the game. Had an MCL — put a brace on and played. Had a shoulder separation. I think that might have been two games, might have been three. It was at the end of the season. So it would have been more though.
I’ve heard people comment it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s more like a baseball bat to the kneecaps. Or to the shoulder. That’s what I equate everything to: football. I’ve never missed it or missed three games, unless it was for a broken arm or dislocated shoulder.
Will he be able to promote an analyst with Sherrone Moore out game one?
That’s what I’ve been told, that we’ll be able to elevate an analyst for his role, not for mine. So that I wouldn’t be able to be replaced for any of the three games with another person. So yeah, Coach Gilbert is somebody that most likely I’ll elevate to that position.
Who will call plays in Week 1?
Kirk Campbell. I’m very confident in Kirk’s ability. He’s been preparing these. We talked about being dialed in for the game. He’s getting as dialed in as well as anybody I’ve ever, ever seen.
Who will call the defense in Week 1?
I anticipate Jesse will.
How did Warde Manuel tell him about the suspension?
Just not wanting to want to go into the how it was conveyed, it was just conveyed. I respect his decision.
The NCAA investigation
I’m completely muzzled when it comes to talking about it.
His feelings on the suspension
I’m an analogy guy, you know? It feels much closer to that (baseball bat to the kneecaps) than a slap on the wrist.
Is this the toughest moment in his coaching career?
I don’t know, I really don’t know what it’s gonna be like. And that’s what I was asking. I mean, day to day, I’ve been coaching the team. I’ve continued to coach the team.
I mean, some people call up and ask my wife, what are we doing for the three-week vacation that we’re about to take? And yes, she has the same reaction. There isn’t one — I’m coaching every single day. There will be the Saturday, the following Saturday, the following Saturday I won’t be able to be on the premises or at the game. And how am I going to react to that? What am I going to feel at that point? I don’t know yet.