Megaphone and poms on the football field

A Coach By Any Other Name

Donors offer new scholarship opportunities for student-athletes and new titles for their coaches

The University of Michigan football team defeats SMU, 45-20, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mi on September 15, 2018.
Coach Jim Harbaugh joined Fielding Yost as the only head coaches to collect back-to-back 10-win seasons in their first two seasons at U-M. Eight Wolverines have secured 12 All-American honors under Harbaugh’s leadership.

In addition to its three campaign priorities, Michigan Athletics honed in on special needs of the department, accounting for $42 million in donations. That includes the development of U-M’s first-ever coaching endowment program. With these funds, four coaching positions will have a permanent source of financial support to curtail compensation expenses. Current head-coaching endowments include John Beilein, the David and Meredith Kaplan Men’s Basketball Head Coach, and Jim Harbaugh (AB ’86), the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. The Michigan football team also welcomed the addition of the Matthew and Nicole Lester Family Defensive Football Coordinator, held by Don Brown, and the Sanford Robertson Offensive Football Coordinator, held by Josh Gattis.

Coach Harbaugh’s new title came in recognition of a $10 million leadership gift from J. Ira  (BBA ’59, HLLD ’12) and Nicki Harris. The gift provided endowment resources to student-athletes on the football team and assisted with renovating facilities on the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus. The gift paved the way for Sanford Robertson (BBA ’53, MBA ’54) and Matthew (AB ’87) and Nicole Lester, who committed $3 million to endow the offensive and defensive coordinator positions.

“[It’s] a way to honor and pay tribute to the history and tradition of Michigan Football and the joy it has given my family throughout the years,” Harris said. “We are proud to be a part of the Michigan family and to provide resources that will continue our tradition as leaders and best.”

The University of Michigan men's basketball team plays host to Northwood University at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor on Nov. 2, 2018.
Coach John Beilein has led U-M to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, also winning two Big Ten regular-season championships and two Big Ten Tournament titles. Beilein is the winningest coach in program history.

David (BBA ’89) and Meredith Kaplan (AB ’92) later rechristened Coach Beilein’s position with a $7.5 million gift. The Kaplans’ gift provided funding for the head basketball coach position, the David and Meredith Kaplan Men’s Basketball Endowed Scholarship Fund, and facilities improvements at Michigan Athletics. The gift was inspired by the 2016 men’s team’s storied run in the NCAA tournament and by the 1989 championship season that highlighted David’s senior year.

“Meredith and I are absolutely thrilled to provide this gift to Michigan and with special recognition of our friend John Beilein,” David said. “John exemplifies what is good and wholesome in college sports and we are delighted that his leadership abilities were on display for all to see during the program’s remarkable run this past March.”

Beilein described the appointment as an honor, with special admiration for the Kaplans. “I will do my very best to represent this position with as much success, class, and dignity as David and Meredith have represented this outstanding institution as alums,” Beilein said. “[They] have been so generous to the university, not just through an endowed scholarship for athletics, but also to the Ross Business School, Life Sciences Institute, and Office of Financial Aid.”

Like many of Michigan Athletics’ generous donors, the Kaplans support several areas of the university, committing time, talent, and resources to a diverse array of causes at U-M.


Read more about the Victors for Athletics & Student-Athletes
Students fencing in a gymnasium

Leaders Invest in

Donors provide record-setting support for the leaders and best
Published 3.18.2019
Aerial view of Michigan Stadium

Ross’ Team One Delivers

U-M Athletics' "Team One" comes together to reimagine South Campus
Published 3.18.2019
Empty gymnasium

Sound Body, Sound Mind

Donors provide mental health support for student-athletes
Published 3.18.2019