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U-M president Santa J. Ono, AD Warde Manuel issue statements on Jim Harbaugh departure

Jim Harbaugh flirted with the NFL the past few years, and on Wednesday that flirtation turned into a full-blown marriage. Harbaugh left Michigan football for the Los Angeles Chargers post.

Upon Harbaugh’s departure, University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel issued a statement. It thanked the nine-year Wolverines coach, conveyed what he did to in an attempt to keep Harbaugh and shared how the two will work together in the days ahead to ensure the maize and blue aren’t left high and dry by his absence.

“I want to thank Jim for everything he has done for our football program, athletic department and the University of Michigan over the past nine years,” Manuel said. “Every day, he has worked extremely hard to elevate the stature of Michigan across the world, with the goal of winning championships and developing young men on and off the football field.

“Jim did exactly what he sought to do at Michigan, build our program to consistently win Big Ten Championships and compete for national championships, culminating with a record three straight outright conference titles and the national championship this year. He did the same off the field by graduating his players and providing life experiences through mentorships, internships and team trips around the globe.

“We have been discussing a new contract that would make Jim the highest paid coach in college football. In the end, he wanted to explore and ultimately decided to pursue a return to coaching in the NFL. We can’t thank Jim enough for all that he has done for our student-athletes, staff and Michigan Football. He will always be a huge part of our rich history, and will be remembered as an all-time great Wolverine, as both a championship player and coach.

“Jim has always been extremely upfront with his communication regarding NFL opportunities and has been helpful with this transition in leadership. We had a great conversation tonight when he informed me of this decision to return to the NFL and offered his assistance in helping identify the needs for the program moving forward.

“We are working quickly to hire the next head coach for the program and will do everything possible to keep this current staff and team together.

“We appreciate Jim’s dedication and passion for Michigan, the university and Ann Arbor, and I wish Jim and the entire Harbaugh family much success with the Los Angeles Chargers.”

U-M president Santa J. Ono, who had done a masterful job of keeping Harbaugh around for the 2023 season, also issued a statement, indicating it was among his highest priorities to keep Harbaugh as the head coach of the Wolverines.

“We have been in talks with Jim Harbaugh for the last several weeks and have tried our best to retain him as our football coach,” Ono said. “Jim called me today and let me know that he has made the difficult decision to leave Michigan and join the Los Angeles Chargers in pursuit of his NFL dreams.

“For the fans, the players, and for me personally, we are sad to hear of Jim’s departure. His drive and ambition turned our program around, delivered our first national championship in a quarter century and maintained Michigan as the all-time winningest team in the history of college football.

“I thank Jim for all he has done for the University of Michigan and respect his decision. He has been an extraordinary leader and a friend. I will be cheering for Jim as he embarks on this next adventure.”

The next step for Michigan football is to hire a head coach, and it appears that the Wolverines have just the man in mind.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire