-- ANN ARBOR, Mich. --? Michigan?athletic director Warde Manuel said football coach Jim Harbaugh "is worth every penny that he makes" and the returns on their investment in him are already showing up for the Wolverines' athletic department.
Michigan has sold 90,000 season tickets for the 2016 schedule, according to a university spokesman. That total is up roughly 14 percent from 2014, the year before Harbaugh arrived at Michigan. Student ticket sales are up 57 percent to 18,000 from roughly 11,500 in the 2014 season.
Harbaugh and the school agreed to a contract amendment in June that will add $2 million per year to his compensation in the form of a loan to pay for a life insurance policy. When added to his $5 million annual salary, that total puts the Michigan coach near the top of the list of the nation's best-compensated coaches.
The life insurance policy loan is a rarely used form of deferred compensation in the sports world. It allows the school to recoup its initial investment when Harbaugh's life insurance policy is paid out. It also creates significant value for Harbaugh's heirs, and it allows the coach to borrow against the policy while he is still alive.
"I wasn't involved in the negotiation of the structure of it," Manuel said. "I can't tell you that I understand all the details, but it's true to what we committed to Jim. The structure might be unique, but the dollars are what we had committed from day one bringing him here."
Manuel said Michigan evaluated internal and external salaries to try to find a fair market value for Harbaugh's compensation package.
"It doesn't bother me that he's that close to the top [of coaching salaries]," he said. "I think he's worth everything that we pay him. I think Jim has proven that he brings tremendous benefit to our football game, to this department and this university."
On top of creating a buzz around the program and a 10-3 record in his debut season, which helped spur the sale of season tickets, Harbaugh has also been credited with helping to solidify Michigan's new apparel contract with Nike and the Jumpman brand. The 11-year apparel deal is worth $169 million for Michigan.