If Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has proven anything in his three-plus years in Ann Arbor, it’s that he’s willing to go above and beyond where most college coaches would. Team trips to Italy and France, sleepovers with high school prospects, signing day media events. Nobody puts themselves out there like Harbaugh does.
And his latest effort would easily be his crowning achievement, at least from an off the field perspective. According to ESPN, the former NFL quarterback is exploring ways to get players paid without making them salaried employees and being taxed as such.
Speaking at a fundraiser in Toledo, Ohio Thursday night, Harbaugh said the Michigan football program is looking into the idea of paying players through deferred compensation. Things like the all-access video series that Amazon paid the University of Michigan over $2 million for last year.
“We’re exploring that right now. Can we get $1,000 of stock in Amazon possibly for deferred compensation?” Harbaugh asked. “… 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 argued that deferred compensation would be a more plausible avenue than paying direct salaries to players that would likely carry tax implications. If schools started to pay players directly, he said, their scholarships would become a taxable benefit, which could mean 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,” Harbaugh continued. “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.”