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Michigan football is raking in $2.25 million to star in new Amazon documentary series

Coach Jim Harbaugh says of Michigan, “We welcome judgment!” about a new documentary series he and the Wolverines will star in. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Of all the college football programs in all the world, Michigan might be the one that needs extra money the least. According to figures obtained by MLive in 2016, the Wolverines are one of a few financially successful NCAA programs that are not only self-sustaining, but profitable. In the 2014-15 season, for example, the program made $56.35 million for the school.

It’s likely that amount will increase — at least nominally — this season, thanks to a recently inked deal for the Wolverines to star in a yet-to-be-named documentary series set to air on Amazon Prime Video in January. According to the Detroit Free Press, which obtained information through a Freedom of Information Act request, the seventh-ranked Wolverines will be paid $2.25 million by the series’ producer, the Montag Group. The group is paying $1.5 million in access and licensing fees and an additional $750,000 for site access.

“We are proud to collaborate with Amazon Prime Video in documenting our University of Michigan student-athletes’ daily experiences and the lifelong lessons learned both on the football field and in the classroom,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said in a statement last month announcing the series. “We welcome judgment! We embrace this opportunity to showcase our 2017 University of Michigan football team to a vast audience around the world.”

Similar to HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the show will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the football team’s operations, as cameras follow Harbaugh, players and team staff on and off the field.

Unlike “Hard Knocks,” however, which has paid players in the past for their participation, it’s unlikely any Wolverines players will receive a dime.

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According to the Free Press, the series must comply with NCAA rules and bylaws. While student-athletes are allowed to work, including in the entertainment industry, that work must not be connected to their athletic career.

The Ann Arbor school, meanwhile, will get plenty of good PR thanks to the series, which will include eight one-hour episodes. It will be co-produced by the Big Ten Network and Jim Jorden Productions. The 26-page agreement obtained by the Free Press states Michigan also has the right to “review” the episodes and edit out “any depiction that would constitute an actionable defamation or false light depiction of the University, the Team or any University Individual” before they air.

It’s no wonder school officials are so excited for the opportunity.

“We think documenting this season will reveal that our university and football program are unique environments that equip our student-athletes for success in both academics and athletics,” Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said. “We are excited to work with great partners and to break new ground as the first collegiate program to participate in this digital space.”

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