San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's family and friends have been encouraging him to take the University of Michigan head-coaching job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL, according to sources close to the situation.
Harbaugh first would like to see what head-coaching opportunities come available -- and he is likely to be a top choice for a handful of teams -- before getting back to Michigan with an answer, per sources.
He also is aware of the fact that Michigan might not be able to wait for him, especially when it might not even land the coach who is believed to be the school's top choice. Plus, college football recruiting is in full swing. The longer a school waits, the more of a disadvantage it can be. It leaves both sides in a tough and delicate spot, even though they have mutual interest in each other, per sources.
Harbaugh would like to finish coaching this season, go through the players' getaway day on Dec. 29 and then make his decision as quickly as possible. As another source said, Harbaugh's agent Dave Dunn "has a good sense of realistic NFL options already."
But as one Michigan source wondered Friday, "If he wants to stay in the NFL, who will pay him $8 million per year?" -- an indication that the Wolverines are prepared to go hard after Harbaugh.
There is an undisputed emotional connection for Harbaugh, who played at Michigan, is an iconic figure there and has been hearing from family and friends about returning as the prodigal son. Harbaugh's father, Jack, is influential with his son and has made it known that he likes and admires Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett, whom he got to know in the mid-1970s, when he was coaching the defensive backs at Michigan while Hackett was playing center at the school.
Harbaugh's wife also is said to be open and on board to him going back to Ann Arbor if that's what he wants, per sources.
While some have pointed out that recruiting would be a challenge, it is one that does not concern Harbaugh, per sources. He believes he has successfully recruited before and would do so again if he returned to college.
His family and friends have voiced their opinions to Harbaugh and made it known that it would be an ideal match. Now, likely by the end of the month, Harbaugh must make the decision that will shape his professional and personal life for years to come.