Former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has signed a deal to become the new coach at Michigan, a person with knowledge of the discussions said Monday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no formal announcement from the university or Harbaugh, who did not return calls or text messages. But not long after Harbaugh arrived at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Monday night, Michigan scheduled a Tuesday news conference for a "major" football announcement.
"I think we'll have some comments tomorrow," Harbaugh told The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper in Ann Arbor.
Harbaugh, 51, coached the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games, with San Francisco losing the 2013 Super Bowl to a Baltimore Ravens team coached by his brother, John. After the 49ers slipped to 8-8 this season and missed the playoffs, he parted ways with the team Sunday in what both sides called a mutual decision.
A day later, his name was the buzz of the Big Ten.
The idea of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry spiced up with Harbaugh vs. Urban Meyer harkens to the league's glory days, when Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes ruled the conference.
"He's basically Michigan royalty right now," said former Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson, now a Jacksonville Jaguars running back. "He's the man right now. I think he's going to do a great job and help out recruiting. He's had success at every school he went to. I think it's a great fit for Michigan."
Big Ten Network analyst and former college coach Gerry DiNardo said Michigan, the only school with more than 900 all-time wins, would be bringing in a "rock star" capable of returning the Wolverines to elite status in a short time.
"This gives Michigan a chance to catch up," DiNardo said.
Michigan offered Harbaugh $49 million over six years, according to media reports. DiNardo said he doubted Harbaugh would have taken the job if he weren't promised to have full autonomy in running the program.
Still, Michigan's new coach has his work cut out for him in a Big Ten East Division that's only getting tougher.
Meyer is preparing the Buckeyes for this week's semifinal against Alabama in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio has built a program that has staying power. Penn State's James Franklin is a celebrated recruiter who looks to have the Nittany Lions on the rise.
Under Brady Hoke, Michigan dipped to 5-7 this season and was among only four Big Ten teams shut out of the postseason bowl games. The Wolverines were 31-20 in Hoke's four seasons, declining steadily after an 11-2 mark in his first year.
Harbaugh went 58-27 as a college coach at San Diego and Stanford, including a 29-21 record in four seasons with the Cardinal. Stanford won the Orange Bowl with quarterback Andrew Luck in his final season.
The 49ers hired Harbaugh four days after the bowl, and he went 44-19-1 with two NFC West titles in four seasons.
Harbaugh was the starting quarterback for three seasons in the mid-1980s under Schembechler. He is remembered for delivering a victory he guaranteed over Ohio State in 1986, the same season he was Big Ten player of the year and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting.
He played 15 years in the NFL, earning the nickname "Captain Comeback" for leading fourth-quarter playoff rallies for the Indianapolis Colts.