Michigan coach’s contract requires the school provide him with private aircraft time for recruiting. USA TODAY Sports
Jim Harbaugh’s contract with the University of Michigan requires the school to provide him with private aircraft time “as reasonable and necessary for all recruiting purposes.” During a 12-day stretch in his first month on the job in 2015, Harbaugh and his staff’s jet travels amounted to more than $10,000 a day in value, university records show.
The documents were provided Thursday in response to a public records request USA TODAY Sports filed in August.
Records for the recruiting season recently completed are not yet available. Harbaugh and his staff put together a highly regarded class that includes players from 13 states, including California, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
The 2015 records give a glimpse into the scramble that Harbaugh and his staff made to finalize their first recruiting class during the weeks before national signing day.
Traveling alone or being accompanied by as many as three assistants at a time, Harbaugh racked up 18 jet-travel legs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 30. There were another five “dead” legs involving no passengers, and an assistant coach had one solo travel leg. There was only day during that period for which no private-jet trips were logged.
Altogether, the total value came to nearly $136,000.
That amount is almost the entire difference between what Michigan reported spending on football recruiting during its 2013-14 fiscal year versus its 2014-15 fiscal year. In 2013-14, it spent $584,721, according to the school’s annual financial report to the NCAA. In 2014-15, it spent $739,337 – a year-over-year increase of more than 26%.
In addition, the documents show that Harbaugh took advantage of another perk provided under his seven-year contract, which included compensation of $5 million and a $2 million signing bonus. The university agreed to reimburse Harbaugh for up to $30,000 in legal fees incurred in negotiating the deal, and that was the amount his attorney, Jeffrey S. Klein, invoiced the school for in January 2015.
The contract of Harbaugh’s predecessor, Brady Hoke, did not specifically address travel for recruiting purpose. Hoke’s agreement required the university to provide an annual allowance of up to $100,000 for charter air travel expenses that could be used for business travel only. Hoke and Harbaugh both had provisions in their deals that required the university to provide them first-class airfare when traveling for program-related business
Harbaugh’s contract also includes a provision under which he is annually entitled to 25 hours of university-paid flight time “on a private aircraft capable of traveling non-stop in the continental United States.” Any unused personal hours from one year can be carried forward for up to one additional year.
Harbaugh used a little more than $32,000 worth of this personal jet time between his hiring date – Dec. 29, 2014 – and Aug. 21, 2015, the date on which USA TODAY filed a records request asking the university to provide information about all of Harbaugh’s use of private aircraft for recruiting and personal purposes through that date.
Citing exemptions to public records allowed under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, the university interpreted that to mean it could shield information that “could lead to the identification of prospective student-athletes” or “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.” For the recruiting-related flights, Michigan refused to disclose all flight destinations other than Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich., as well as the lengths of the flights and the cost of each individual leg.
For the four personal flight legs, all information was redacted except for the type of aircraft and the total cost.
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