Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh smiles at fans as he walks up the tunnel during an open practice at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh is finally on top of the world, or at least the Big Ten, after his Michigan Wolverines finally defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes for the first time in his seven-year stint. The team now heads to the Big Ten Championship Game with a chance to seal a spot in the College Football Playoff.

All of these wins and appearances are triggering bonuses in Harbaugh’s contract that will make him a lot more money in 2021 than he would have made otherwise. And given how many in the Michigan athletic department were required to take pay cuts last year due to COVID-19 pandemic-related cost-cutting, that seems a bit unbalanced, though to be fair, Harbaugh’s salary was also cut.

Harbaugh appears to agree and announced Monday evening that he will be donating all bonus money earned this season to athletic department employees who had their pay reduced due to COVID-19 issues.

To give an idea of how much money that includes, Harbaugh earned $500,000 for winning the Big Ten East on Saturday and he will earn $1 million if Michigan wins the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend. He’ll also earn another $500,000 if the Wolverines make the College Football Playoff. Altogether, he could end up earning as much as $3 million in bonuses this year.

Per ESPN, any athletic department employee who took a voluntary or mandatory pay reduction over the past 18 months and still works for the university is eligible for the opportunity. It remains to be seen exactly what the pool of bonus money will be and how many employees will receive a share.

There are a couple of ways to look at this story. One is that this is a grand gesture by Harbaugh and should be lauded as a class act. The other is to note that it’s an uncomfortable metaphor for the United States, where a millionaire was guaranteed money while lesser paid employees were forced to take meaningful pay cuts, and they will receive some recompense only because the benevolent rich person decided to do so rather than their employer taking care of them.

The dichotomy of those two reactions played out on social media on Monday night.



All in all, it’s a great move by Harbaugh at a time when his reputation is reaching new heights. If he’s able to pull off a couple more victories this season, he might move into a whole new stratosphere in Michigan lore, on and off the field.

[Aaron McMann, ESPN]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.