Jim Harbaugh to LeDuff: I'm not worth $5 million/year

Charlie LeDuff returns to his college roots in Ann Arbor to see if new football coach Jim Harbaugh is worth the money.

Before Charlie traveled the country to tell the story of The Americans, before he was a writer for The New York Times, and before he squatted on the squatter or examined what Detroit's senior citizens are eating from the meals on wheels program, Charlie LeDuff was a student and cheerleader at the University of Michigan. This week, he returns to his roots in Ann Arbor for a special talk with the new man at Michigan: Jim Harbaugh.

Across the country, the highest paid people in 39 of the 50 states each state have one thing in common: The highest paid public employee is a basketball or football coach (see the report from Deadspin here). Combined, the top 50 college coaches earned a total of $165 million in 2015. By comparison, the 50 governors of the United States earned a fraction of that: $6.5 million.

Not factored into those numbers is Harbaugh who was hired at the end of December. The former U-M quarterback left the San Francisco 49ers to come home to Ann Arbor. 

"The decision was from the heart," he said. "I grew up here. Went to school here. Was a student athlete here at Michigan and I have a great love for Michigan."

Of course, he's also getting paid. Handsomely. He'll earn $5 million each year, behind only Nick Saban and Bob Stoops for the most by a college football coach in the country. 

America is crazy about football but is $5 million per year is a lot of money. Charlie asked Harbaugh if he was worth that much. Coach's answer? 

"No." 

So Charlie suggested he give it back.

"Naw," he said. "I like making a buck just like the next guy. I'm not doing five times as much work as somebody else or doing more work than someone who's not the head football coach at the University of Michigan so to answer your question honestly I would have to say no."

We could wow you with more facts and figures about how much money college sports makes (it's a lot) but instead, Charlie went to a professor at the law school and asked him the same question: is Jim Harbaugh worth the money? His surprising answer on this installment of The Americans.

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