Jim Harbaugh tells Michigan that dalliance with NFL was 'one time thing'

Jim Harbaugh called Michigan to inform the school that, despite interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday, he will be returning to the school for the 2022 season, the football coach told the Detroit Free Press.

Harbaugh said he told athletic director Warde Manuel that this would not be a recurring issue and that he would be staying at Michigan as long as the school wants him.

"I called Warde and I asked him if he wanted me to be the head coach. And he said, 'Yes, 100 percent.' And I said, 'OK then. That's what I want to do,'" Harbaugh told the Free Press late Thursday night. "And I told him, 'Warde, this will not be a reoccurring theme every year. This was a one time thing.'"

He later added: "I told Warde, 'From here on out, I'm working at the pleasure of the University of Michigan, because that's, in my heart, where I want to be."

Michigan was "elated" to get Harbaugh's decision, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has emerged as the favorite to become the head coach in Minnesota, sources told Schefter and ESPN's Dan Graziano.

Harbaugh did not receive an offer from the Vikings before he left, a source told ESPN.

"There was a tugging at me that I was once that close to a Super Bowl and I didn't get it," Harbaugh told the Free Press. "Some NFL jobs came open. I was contacted by the Vikings.

"For better or for worse, it was something I wanted to explore. I went in thinking, 'I'm gonna have 100-percent conviction on this, and if [the Vikings] have 100-percent conviction on this, then it's something I'm gonna do."

Harbaugh, 58, interviewed with the Vikings in Eagan, Minnesota, on college football's national signing day. Michigan has the No. 8-ranked recruiting class, featuring seven ESPN 300 commits -- many of whom had already signed their national letters of intent with the Wolverines during December's early signing period.

Sources previously told ESPN that Harbaugh had been planning for his interview with Minnesota as if he was going to be hired by the Vikings and prepared his exit from the Wolverines' football program by speaking with recruits about the possibility of his return to the NFL.

Minnesota did not bring Harbaugh in on Wednesday with the notion that the job was his and went through the same interview process and format that the franchise conducted with New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham on Tuesday, sources said.

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons (2011-14) with the San Francisco 49ers and holds the fifth-best winning percentage in NFL history, ahead of any active coach in the league. Harbaugh led San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game in three of his four seasons and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his second year, but he was fired after going 8-8 in 2014.

Following his time with San Francisco, Harbaugh was hired by Michigan, his alma mater, in 2015. In seven seasons, Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to a 61-24 record with a 42-17 mark in Big Ten play.

Coming off a 2-4 season in 2020, Harbaugh took a pay cut and decreased his base salary from $8 million to $4 million annually. During the 2021 campaign, he led Michigan to its first outright Big Ten championship since 2003 and first Big Ten title game. Harbaugh also led the Wolverines to their first victory over Ohio State during his tenure and to the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed. Michigan played Georgia in the Orange Bowl in the semifinals and lost 34-11.

The Vikings reached out to Michigan last Saturday and received permission to speak with Harbaugh in an informal capacity. His ties to new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who worked in San Francisco with the former Niners coach from 2013 to 2014, carried considerable weight in Harbaugh becoming a candidate just days after the team hired its new GM.

Sources previously told ESPN that Harbaugh was Adofo-Mensah's top choice for the job.

"I'm an honest person," Harbaugh told the Free Press. "There was a large pull there [for the NFL]. But I didn't feel it was that way for both parties. And that's it. That's my mindset now."

Before Adofo-Mensah was hired last week, Minnesota conducted eight first-round interviews for its head-coach vacancy. O'Connell and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris were both part of those initial interviews and met with the Vikings in person on Monday in Los Angeles.

Graham interviewed with the Vikings for the first time three days after Adofo-Mensah was hired. Graham's second interview took place in person on Tuesday.

The Vikings fired coach Mike Zimmer, along with general manager Rick Spielman, on Jan. 10 after the team finished the 2021 season with an 8-9 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.