[Update] Coaching Search Madness: Harbaugh to San Fran? Rodriguez Gone (Finally?)

The last 24 hours have produced a great deal of talk about the rapidly evolving coaching situations at Michigan (no surprise) and Stanford (Who woulda thought 3 years ago?). Starting with the news of Rich Rodriguez's firing spreading throughout the college sports world, followed by an afternoon denial-of a decision from Michigan's AD. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh was thought to be the next Michigan Man, then Miami (the mammals, not the weather system) showed interest, all the while the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers have laid in wait. Here is what we know now:

Jim Harbaugh was on the Stanford charter flight back to the Bay Area on Tuesday (unlike another BCS-game coach who couldn't wait to clean out his office before taking a new job), but may not be long for Palo Alto. The San Francisco 49ers, after having confirmed the internal hire of Trent Baakle as General Manager, are said to be waiting only to satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule before officially offering their head coaching job. Harbaugh may interview with the 49ers today, and is thought to be their clear number 1 choice.

We know, fairly certainly, that Harbaugh is interested in the 49ers, and that he has told them so. (Or else none of this would’ve happened like this.)

... The 49ers absolutely want him, and a high-ranking NFL source said Tuesday that team president Jed York remains more than willing to pay a premium price to get him.

... According to the source, York and Baalke have been in regular contact with Harbaugh and his representatives for many weeks, and Harbaugh let them know that either Baalke or former Raiders executive Mike Lombardi would suit his idea of a front-office partner.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins are holding exploratory talks with Harbaugh, where reports of a $6 million/year salary has been rumored.

According to sources, the Dolphins have put a decision on the coaching staff in a holding pattern while the team's executives conduct exploratory talks with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

While no offer has been made, the Dolphins may have to move quickly, given the stiff competition for Harbaugh's services. The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos also have head coach openings and are in play. Harbaugh's camp is reportedly demanding a salary north of $6 million a season.

Stanford can't match that kind of financial offer, but according to the SJ Mercury News's Jon Wilner, Stanford has offered Harbaugh a substantial raise to stay on the Farm, a salary upward of $3 million/year. Michigan could offer more money, but does he want to return to his alma mater? Wilner thinks that Harbaugh genuinely likes Stanford (despite disappointment in the small crowds present at Stanford Stadium on gamedays), while the Detroit Free Press reported that Harbaugh is unlikely to leave Stanford to return to Michigan.

For the moment, Rich Rodriguez is still the head football coach at Michigan. While early reports on Tuesday stated that Rich Rod had been given the axe, Michigan's AD stated that he had not yet decided on Rodriguez's future with the Wolverines. Despite the popular opinion that Michigan Athletics (and their boosters) have plenty of money to throw around, it has been speculated that money is a factor in the proceedings.

One source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Joe Schad that Brandon may have been hoping Rodriguez would resign, but he won't.

Another source said "contractual considerations" could emerge as a determining factor in Michigan's decision. Rodriguez would be owed a $2.5 million buyout if Michigan decides to terminate his contract.

In addition to the money owed to Rodriguez, Michigan would have to factor in the costs of buying out his replacement from his current position, whether it be Harbaugh at Stanford, Brady Hoke at SDSU, or even Les Miles at LSU (if he actually has an interest in returning to Ann Arbor at this point).

It may simply be an example of the MSM jumping the gun to be the first to break a story, fact checking be damned (not just for blogs anymore), but there may have been something behind a last second delay, if not change in heart in releasing Rodriguez of his responsibilities. The decreasing chance of Harbaugh taking the job may have caused AD Brandon to take a step back, realizing that his top option was unlikely to come, and causing him to decide whether plan B (Hoke) is better than giving Rodriguez another year, contingent on shaking up the pathetic Greg Robinson-led defense - the Wolverine D has regressed throughout Robinson's 3 years in charge of the defense, bottoming out with a 2010 season seeing the unit ranked 110th out of 120 FBS teams. In contrast, after 2 years of mediocrity, Rodriguez's offense finally came to life in 2010 with Denard Robinson leading the way. If by some chance Rodriguez survives for another year at Michigan, he will undoubtedly be looking for a new Defensive coordinator, likely one that can come in and turn around that defense quickly enough to save Rich Rod's job beyond 2011 (Vic Fangio, anybody?). Another coach looking for an impact DC would certainly impact the Bruins own search for a Bullough replacement.

Speaking of Hoke, he is considered to be the plan B for Michigan, if Harbaugh declines to come. He has had recent success in reviving the football programs at Ball State and San Diego State, and was once an assistant coach under Lloyd Carr at Michigan. He fills the role as "Michigan Man" that is so important for some Michigan backers, though the Wolverine blogosphere is not too impressed with Hoke's possible return.

Some people think he is a great college football coach and nothing to worry about. I think such ideas are preposterous. They are the cranial productions of blind fools who do not understand college football and offer no evidence to support their views.

The massive favorite in the rumormongering is none other than Brady Hoke, which goddammit. I'm not writing things about it now because all of it could or would get thrown back in my face in the event Brady Hoke is not a complete failure but rest assured I'm thinking all of them and how. ... I still cling to the belief that Michigan would not look at a 53-year-old with one decent season and one undefeated MAC campaign (undefeated until Ball State played Buffalo in the championship game, anyway, and then imploded against Tulsa, and then the mighty foundation Hoke had wrought imploded in a pile of balsawood splinters) after Indiana and Minnesota had both said "thanks, but no thanks" to the same guy, let alone make him their head coach.

Meanwhile, several writers and media figures have picked up on my thought that if Michigan does cut Rodriguez loose, that Pitt should not hesitate to bring him back to the Big East, providing a new stimulus package to our nation's furniture distributors and guaranteeing that ESPN Gameday will be making an appearance in Morgantown in November.

Have at it with your thoughts, rumors, or whatever comes up on the coaching front today.

UPDATE (A): The longest firing might be finally official:

Athletic director Dave Brandon announced the decision after meeting with Rodriguez on Tuesday and again Wednesday morning.

"I have completed a systematic and thorough review of our football program and believe that a change in leadership is necessary," Brandon said. "We have not achieved at the level that I expect."

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