Coaching Search 2014: Is Jim Harbaugh a legit candidate for Kansas?
Here's the quick coaching search nugget of the day as it pertains to the KU football program.
Although the search still has yet to start — (a) because the program would like to see what it's got in interim coach Clint Bowen and (b) because it's barely October and most, if not all, of the viable candidates for the job are busy working their butts off at other schools — there seems to be at least a tidbit or two of information floating around every couple of days.
Lately, a lot of that information has focused on San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, as you know, was rumored to be thiiiisss close to taking the job when Turner Gill got it, but things, according to popular opinion, blew up at the last second and the Jayhawks were left with Gill.
One of the big draws for Harbaugh then was that his wife grew up in the Kansas City area and is a KU fan. Well, if you believe what's being thrown out there right now, you're likely thinking that that's a big draw again this time around.
Various reports have said that Harbaugh and the 49ers are not exactly seeing eye to eye at the moment, and many of them indicate that the Niners head coach is unlikely to return to the Bay Area in 2015.
Does that mean he's coming to Kansas? Hardly.
Could it happen? You bet. But is all of this current buzz an indicator that it's going to or even that he would be the leading candidate? Nope.
I'm sure if Harbaugh were interested in the job — and that part, to me, is not that big of a stretch — he could make his interest known and perhaps even contact KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger himself to check the temperature on the job. Doing so would go a long way toward helping his chances.
But even if Harbaugh ultimately decides to go after the job, he's not exactly a slam dunk, no-brainer hire for Kansas.
Here are a few reasons Harbaugh could have trouble landing the job:
• The price tag could be too high. For one, it doesn't sound to me like KU's interested in paying the $3-$5 million per year range that Harbaugh could command, so right there he could be pricing himself out of the job. Even if KU was willing to pay big bucks, there's no way Harbaugh's salary would exceed what Kansas pays Bill Self, who, in 2013, signed a 10-year, $50 million extension.
• Speaking of Self, could Harbaugh work at a school where he and the football program were not the kings of the castle?
• Harbaugh had a ton of success at Stanford and clearly is more than capable of doing a solid job at the collegiate level, but he'd be coming to Kansas directly from the NFL and I'm guessing that both Zenger and the KU fan base might be a little gun-shy about that, given the NFL ties of their last head coach.
• There's no question that Harbaugh would draw a ton of attention from Michigan, his alma mater, if the Wolverines' job came open and that possibility could keep KU from pursuing Harbaugh too heavily. For one, if the situation at Michigan suddenly turned favorable — better pay, a new AD, etc. — then KU, in its current state, probably could not compete. For two, even if KU could land Harbaugh now, you'd have to wonder if the lure of his alma mater or even the NFL again would be a problem down the road.
None of this means Harbaugh is a bad option for Kansas or that the Jayhawks should stay away. He's a proven coach with an incredible track record who, if truly committed, probably could get Kansas back on the right track in a hurry.
But there are at least a few concerns that might keep KU from getting too invested in Harbaugh too soon.
I'd say he remains a solid candidate but probably isn't in the top couple of names on Zenger's list as things stand today. We all know how quickly things can change, though, so buckle up and get ready for this thing to heat up when November hits.