Jim Harbaugh is again calling for revenue sharing with student athletes.
The Michigan head football coach — who is suspended for the Wolverines’ first three games this season — opened his news conference on Monday with a lengthy statement calling for college athletes to get a cut of the leagues’ television deals.
The current system, he said, is failing fast.
“We have to try to make it work, we have to try to make it better and right now,” Harbaugh said. “The current status quo is unacceptable and won’t survive. In my opinion, when we capitalize on the talent, we should pay the talent for their contributions to the bottom line.”
This idea isn’t a new one for Harbaugh. He’s brought it up twice now at Big Ten media days in recent years. But his comments now come amid a massive surge in conference realignment, which has led to new larger TV contracts. The Big Ten, which is adding USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington next year, recently inked a massive $8 billion TV deal. The ACC, which is considering adding Stanford, Cal and SMU, stands to bring in an additional estimated $72 million annually if the league moves forward. The Big 12 reached a six-year deal with ESPN and Fox last year — prior to its latest expansion — that’s worth more than $2 billion.
If athletes, and more specifically football players, are fueling those deals, Harbaugh said, they should be getting at least a piece of the cut.
Harbaugh didn’t get into specifics about how such a revenue sharing system would work, or how it would impact smaller sports outside of football. The discrepancy isn’t as bad as it used to be, either, with the NCAA’s new NIL rules that allow athletes to earn money off their name while competing. Still, it would absolutely be a complicated thing to figure out.
The system he called for, however, is one that “is fair, equitable and benefits all involved.”
"I want them to be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve," Harbaugh said. "What I don't understand is how the NCAA, television networks, conferences, universities and coaches can continue to pull in millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars in revenue off the efforts of college student-athletes across the country without providing enough opportunity to share in the ever-increasing revenues."
With how slow the NCAA was to change its NIL laws, it’s unclear how impactful Harbaugh’s comments will be.
Suspension is like ‘a baseball bat to the kneecaps’
Michigan self-imposed a three-game suspension for Harbaugh earlier this month after a potential four-game suspension by the NCAA fell through. The NCAA determined that Harbaugh made false statements after officials investigated alleged recruiting violations during the COVID-19 dead period.
While Harbaugh's alleged lies about getting cheeseburgers with recruits has drawn most of the attention, the NCAA said there were a wide array of activities that he was involved in.
“I’ve heard people commenting, ‘It’s a slap on the wrist.’ It’s more like a baseball bat to the kneecaps or shoulder,” Harbaugh said Monday, via MLive.
“I equate everything to football. I’ve never missed three games unless it was for a broken arm or broken shoulder.”
Harbaugh will miss No. 2 Michigan’s season opener against East Carolina on Saturday, and then games against UNLV and Bowling Green. He will return for the Wolverines’ Big Ten opener against Rutgers on Sept. 23.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will take the lead on Saturday, and then a carousel of coaches will take charge the rest of the way.
“I’m going to continue coaching the team,” Harbaugh said, via MLive. “Some people call me up and ask my wife, ‘What are we doing during the three-week vacation that we’re about to take?’ There isn’t one. I’m coaching every single day. It will be this Saturday, the following Saturday, the following Saturday.
“How am I going to react to that? What am I going to feel? I don’t know.”