Michigan lands Jim Harbaugh on record-breaking contract

Former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is headed back to the college game (©GettyImages)

Michigan fans rejoice: The coach of your dreams has arrived.

It's not very often that a man who was one play away from a Super Bowl victory becomes available on the coaching wire. It's even rarer when such a coach would take the downgrade in perception from the pros to the amateur level.

Huge deal

But former San Francisco man Jim Harbaugh is no regular coach. And now he will be paid at least $48 million over six years, the most lucrative contract in college football history, according to ESPN reports, to bring the Wolverines back to the promised land.

Here's why Harbaugh was so widely courted, and what his next challenge will be as he leads one of the sport's most storied programs.

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Proven winner

Harbaugh has a history of making more out of less - and that's not just on the professional level.

The former Michigan quarterback took over the reigns at Stanford University in 2007. The Cardinal had gone 1-11 the season before and generally looked awful in its worst season since a winless year in 1960.

Harbaugh had spent three years as the coach of the San Diego Toreros, but was a virtual unknown otherwise. He led Stanford to a 4-8 record in his first season, increased his win totals each year and finished with a 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning season in 2010.

He only continued his status as a turnaround magician with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, coaching them to a 13-3 record in his first season there. That was after the 49ers only had six wins the year before. 

The 49ers went to three straight NFC championship games, and lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. This year the team struggled to an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs for the first time under Harbaugh.

Michigan pride

As the Wolverine's starting quarterback in the '80s, Harbaugh was known for his grit and determination. As their head coach, he will have to be known for his recruiting moxie and ability to ignite a passionate fan base that has laid dormant due to multiple disappointing seasons.

Michigan lays claim to 11 national titles, 42 conference titles and three Heisman winners, making it one of college football's most successful programs. But coach Brady Hoke's three seasons were marred when each year resulted in less wins and more controversy away from the field.

Four of Michigan's last five coaches were formerly associated with the program, with Hoke (2011-14), Lloyd Carr (1995-2007) and Gary Moeller (1990-94) all serving previously as assistants. 

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