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Should Michigan let its next football coach pick his own boss?

Let's think outside the box for a moment. What happens if a school involves a potential football coach in its athletic director search, rather than vice versa?

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Michigan took the first step to improving its football program by procuring the resignation of athletic director Dave Brandon last Friday. The thinking behind the move is likely that Brandon both made the poor decision to hire head coach Brady Hoke and had become such a reviled figure that he would represent an obstacle to bringing in a top replacement.

Brandon's reputedly poor relationship with 49ers coach and former Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Michigan's likely target for the head coaching position, only cements the need to have a new AD in place.

Thus, the clear sequence would be for Michigan to hire an athletic director in late November or early December, fire Hoke, and then take a run at Harbaugh as his season ends in late December or possibly January. (The 49ers' mediocre start to the season helps with this scenario.)

This raises a question: should decision-makers at the school reach out to Harbaugh to ask him if he has a preference with respect to the next athletic director?

At first blush, this question is silly. The athletic director sits on top of the org chart. The AD is ultimately responsible for the success of the entire organization, whether one measures success based on financial metrics or wins and losses. Among the responsibilities of the AD is hiring and firing a football coach. In short, the football coach answers to the AD, so why would the football coach get to pick his own boss?

Now, this has to be applied within reason. Michigan should not comply with a hypothetical suggestion that the coach's spouse become the new AD. However, once the school has culled down a list of three to five candidates, it would be rational to ask the top candidate for his opinion on the group.

Most major college athletic departments are funded primarily by their football programs. The biggest sources of football revenues are ticket purchases and donations. Those sources are dependent on the football program winning games. Thus, the biggest driver in the financial performance of athletic departments like Michigan, Florida, or most other contenders for the Capital One Cup is the performance of the football program.

Compensation figures tell us that the market treats football coaches as being significantly more important than their bosses. Despite his relatively thin resume when he was hired by Michigan in 2011, Hoke made $4.154 million last year. This placed Hoke eighth on the list of coaches ranked by compensation. In contrast, Brandon made $900,000. With the exception of anomalous Vanderbilt, it's hard to find any power-conference school at which the athletic director makes as much as the head football coach.

With that in mind, why wouldn't Michigan reach out to the head coach that it covets and ask him about his preference for the athletic director? After all, Harbaugh could reportedly leave San Francisco because of friction with team general manager Trent Baalke, so putting him at ease that he would not have the same issues in Ann Arbor would be a substantial benefit. Moreover, Harbaugh could be a target of multiple NFL teams looking for head coaches in late December, so Michigan would need to use every persuasive tool available.

The financial benefits of doing so would be substantial, starting with the fact that a coach with Harbaugh's resume would excite a disillusioned fan base that is currently described as follows:

Many fans grew disenchanted with the team's slide into mediocrity, the anemic home schedules, and the cost of it all -- including the decision to raise student ticket prices again in 2013 to a league high $295, or $42 a game. The price stayed there for 2014, but by this fall, the season-ticket wait list had evaporated, the stadium failed to sell out for the first time in decades, and the student section was roughly half what it was before Brandon took over.

And Michigan is by no means unique in this respect. With the exception of the few programs where basketball is as big or bigger than football, schools looking for both an athletic director and a head football coach should consider placing a priority on the latter. It's awkward to do so when looking at the org chart, but it makes sense to do so when looking at the balance sheet.