While we wait for Jim Harbaugh to sign his proposed contract extension, he steps into Ann Arbor as if he were staying with the program.
It’s been days since reports surfaced that Michigan football hired Mike Elston, the former Wolverines linebacker, at Notre Dame, but now it’s official.
The Michigan football program announced the move Monday afternoon.
University of Michigan J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh announced Monday (Jan. 17) the hiring of former Wolverine player Mike Elston as the program’s defensive line coach. Elston brings 21 years of full-time coaching experience in the Midwest back to Ann Arbor.
“I am delighted to welcome Mike Elston to an already incredibly talented staff here at the University of Michigan,” said Harbaugh. “I’ve been following Mike’s work at Notre Dame for some time and admire his ability to recruit not only great student athletes, but also his proven track record of developing players for the NFL. Mike is a Michigan guy so he will be able to get off the ground. Help me welcome Mike and his wife, Beth, and their three daughters, Olivia, Sophia, and Isabella, home to Michigan.”
“My family and I are beyond excited to return to the University of Michigan,” Elston said. “I want to thank Coach Harbaugh and Warde Manuel for this incredible opportunity to join the athletics department and the university community. I can’t get to campus fast enough to build relationships with the players, coaches and staff on the football program.”
Elston spent the past 12 seasons at Notre Dame, helping the Irish appear in 11 bowling games, including two College Football Playoff semi-final appearances and one BCS National Championship game. He worked with 12 NFL ladies at Notre Dame, including five players drafted in the past three drafts (2019-21). The Irishman played four times in his 12 seasons with the program in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, BCS National Championship or the College Football Playoff.
Elston returns to UM for his second stint as part of the coaching staff. Elston was a three-year letter winner for the Maize and Blue from 1993-96, contributing 29 tackles during his last two seasons. He was part of teams that built a 35-16 four-year record under head coaches Gary Moeller (1993-94) and Lloyd Carr (1995-95) and won postseason games in the Hall of Fame Bowl after the 1993 season and the Holiday. Bowl after the 1994 season.
Elston has been on the staff of Notre Dame since the 2010 season, working with the defensive line and linebackers in 10 of their 12 seasons during the 2015-16 campaigns. He was the team’s recruiting coordinator for four years (2015-17, ’21) and was the special teams coordinator for his first two seasons in South Bend (2010-11). Last season in 2021, Elston was also the game coordinator of the defense. He was elevated to head coach prior to the 2018 season, the second time in his career that he has held that title.
Most recently, in 2021, Elston helped lead a defense that ranked in the top-30 in five key areas including pass efficiency defense (23rd), scoring defense (15th), interceptions (14th), sacks (13th), allowable conversion rate third down (10th), and defensive touchdowns (seventh). The Irish played in the 2022 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, finishing the year eighth in the latest Associated Press Poll and ninth in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll.
After his playing days, Elston was a student assistant coach at Michigan for the 1997 National Championship season, and changed his duties to video intern for the 1998 season. He stepped into a graduate assistant role and worked with outside linebackers for the 1999 and 1999 seasons. 2000, and then took the same position at Eastern Michigan in 2001.
Elston spent three years in Eastern Michigan, the last two as a recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach (2002-03), then moved to the MAC West to work in Central Michigan from 2004-06. Elston started with the Chips as a defensive line coach and added the title of co-defensive coordinator in his sophomore year. While leading the defense, he helped Dan Bazuin lead the country with 26.5 tackles for losses and a MAC record 16.0 sacks. In Elston’s third year at CMU, he coached linebackers and changed from co-coordinating defense to coordinator of the team’s special teams. He helped guide two linebackers to earn All-MAC honors in 2006, including the leader in tackles.
Elston would continue to coordinate special teams for the next five seasons; first in Cincinnati (2007-09), then at Notre Dame (2010-11). At Cincinnati, he worked with the tight ends for his first two seasons and was the program’s recruiting coordinator. Elston’s last year with the Bearcats saw him elevated to assistant head coach while holding special team duties and coaching the defensive line.
Elston is the third former Michigan player on Harbaugh’s current coaching staff. Safety mentor Ron Bellamy and running backs coach Mike Hart were both hired before the start of the 2021 season.
Elston and his wife, Beth, are the parents of three daughters: Olivia, Sophia and Isabella.