Jim Harbaugh exploring idea of giving players 'deferred compensation'

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says he is looking at potential ways to provide compensation for his players without making them full employees.

Harbaugh said the football program is looking into the idea of offering deferred compensation to players through avenues like an all-access video series like the one Michigan did with Amazon last year. The producers of last season's behind-the-scenes show paid Michigan more than $2 million to film the team. Harbaugh said if the Wolverines decide to participate in another season of the show, he wants to see if the players can get a cut of that deal.

"We're exploring that right now. Can we get $1,000 of stock in Amazon possibly for deferred compensation?" he asked Thursday night while speaking at a fundraiser in Toledo. "... We're just kind of wondering if it's possible. We don't know if it is yet. We're just asking the question."

Harbaugh said he wasn't in favor of paying salaries to players, mostly because of the possible tax implications. He said he was concerned that if schools started to pay players directly their scholarships would become a taxable benefit and players would end up paying more in taxes than they made.

"I think that 1 percent [of high school football players] that is able to play college football to get their education and get their degree is what's best for them," he said. "That's a lot and it should be valued as such. I worry about making them employees for the biggest reason, I believe, is because of that ability to be taxed."

He said he and one of the Amazon series' producers talked about the potential of working some value for the players into a deal if they decide to tape another series. Michigan hasn't yet asked the NCAA if there would be a way to make that type of arrangement compliant with NCAA rules. Harbaugh said he wasn't sure that it would work, but he wanted to ask the question to find out.

A film crew joined Michigan's team on its recent trip to France, but Harbaugh said they have yet to make a final decision about whether they will have a second season of the series. He said most of the feedback he's received from people who have seen the series has been good.

The coach, though, said he hasn't watched any part of the series that documents a full year with the team during its offseason and its 8-5 record on the field. He said he doesn't like watching himself or listening to his recorded voice.

"And some of those losses, I don't think I could watch them again," he said.

Harbaugh spoke Thursday at an event to raise money for several organizations that help to provide legal aid for those who can't afford it. Speaking just across the border in Ohio, he pledged to match any donation made to a fund for those groups up until the Michigan-Ohio State game in late November. He started the night by meeting Toledo's mayor and receiving a ceremonial key to the city, which is one trophy his Buckeyes counterpart, Urban Meyer, doesn't have yet.