ANN ARBOR — Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy revealed, in the moments following the football team's national championship celebration at the Crisler Center, that he will announce his decision about his playing future on Sunday.
McCarthy, 27-1 as a two-year starter for the Wolverines, is considering returning for his final season or heading to the NFL Draft, where some experts project him to be a first-round pick. McCarthy is “NFL ready,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said late last month before the Rose Bowl.
The deadline to declare for the NFL Draft is Monday.
“Tomorrow,” McCarthy said when asked by The Detroit News on Saturday evening when he would announce his decision. “I will release him (in the morning).”
The team was honored by a sold-out crowd at the Crisler Center, two hours after players, coaches and staff participated in a one-mile procession in frigid temperatures from the President's House to Schembechler Hall. When McCarthy was introduced, fans chanted, “One more year!”
“I know many of us have to make an important decision in life…Michigan will forever be in my heart,” McCarthy told the crowd. “Love you all. Go blue.”
This likely wasn't the response Michigan fans were hoping to hear at the celebration. However, earlier in the celebration, Michigan athletic director Ward Manuel assured fans, as he has repeatedly since Monday when Michigan won the national championship, beating Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, that he is working to retain Harbaugh.
Harbaugh is considering a contract extension from Michigan that would make him the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten, but is also reportedly considering NFL possibilities. Several national reports linked him to the Chargers and Raiders. Harbaugh traveled to Minnesota in 2022 to interview for the head coaching job and in 2023 held talks with Denver.
Manuel told the crowd he wanted to answer the question he had been asked “500 times” during the show on Saturday afternoon.
“I'm working on getting this guy (Harbaugh) a new contract, I promise you that,” Manuel said, to massive applause.
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The Wolverines finished the season 15-0, one of four programs to achieve that record in college football history. It defeated Alabama in the Rose Bowl national semifinals and then Washington in the national title game.
“We went from bottom of 2020 to national champions,” right guard Zach Zinter said, referring to Michigan's 2-4 season in 2020.
This season has been full of distractions. An NCAA investigation into impermissible recruiting in 2021 led Michigan to impose a three-game suspension on Harbaugh for the first three games of the season. The investigation has not yet been fully resolved and is expected to go to a violations committee hearing in the spring where Harbaugh faces a Level 1 violation for misleading investigators. In mid-October, the NCAA began investigating an alleged illegal scouting/sign-stealing scheme. Big Ten commissioner Tony Pettitte, citing the league's sportsmanship policy, suspended Harbaugh for the final three games of the regular season.
Earlier this week, NCAA President Charlie Baker told reporters that Michigan's national championship was awarded “fairness and integrity.”
“Some teams tried to use nefarious methods to reach us,” Manuel said at the celebration. “It didn't come to fruition. We didn't take the bait.”
The players maintained what they called a “one-track” mentality throughout the season and were not shaken by the accusations or headlines they saw on social media, on television, and in newspapers.
“When they doubted us, when they disrespected us, when they called us cheaters, we stayed focused,” Mike Sinristil, the team's two-time captain, said Saturday night.
The event, which benefited NIL's Circle of Champions, began two hours after thousands of people lined the parade route, braving the cold and wind to celebrate their team.
“Today was amazing,” defensive backs coach Steve Clinkskil said after the presentation. “It was the first time for me when we won the national championship. The first thing you feel is having your family with you, and everything you sacrificed and all the hard work the players, families, coaches and staff put in, it was all worth it. It's the first time in my career that I feel… It means that what we started on and off the field has been accomplished.
McCarthy is overwhelmed by the day of celebration.
“It meant everything. Just being able to celebrate this as a university is amazing,” McCarthy said.
McGregor to the NFL
Michigan Edge forward Brayden McGregor announced Saturday night on social media that he is headed to the NFL Draft.
McGregor had nine tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble during the 2023 season. Edge rusher Jaylen Harrell also declared for the NFL draft this week.
“I'm proud to say I'll leave with a degree, three Big 10 championships, a Rose Bowl win, never losing to Ohio State University, and a national championship from the greatest university on Earth,” McGregor said.
“Devoted travel trailblazer. Freelance beer scholar. Passionate analyst. Hardcore twitter fanatic.”