Harbaugh History: Like Father, Like Sons

Sports Columnist
The Voice-Tribune

When the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 3 in New Orleans, you will see something you may never see again.

Yes, that’s when the two National Football League teams coached by the Harbaugh brothers, Jim and John, will play for all the marbles. Their daddy, Jack, coached Western Kentucky University to the NCAA Division 1-AA national championship in his 14th and final year in Bowling Green.

In their march to the national title, Harbaugh’s Hilltoppers finished 91-68-0. In their final season, they were 11-3 and scored playoff victories over Murray 59-20, Western Illinois 31-28, Georgia Southern 31-28, Georgia State 31-28 and McNeese State 34-14.

That national championship got the WKU coach elected to the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.

While their daddy coached Western, the Harbaugh brothers helped him. They got shoe companies to donate shoes and other apparel for the Hilltoppers. One of the sons even got certified by the NCAA as a WKU coach so that he could recruit for the Toppers.

Jim, 49, never made it to the Super Bowl during a 15-year NFL career as a quarterback. John never played in the NFL.

For the past two weeks the Harbaugh brothers were coaching their way into the Super Bowl. While they were doing that, their sister Joanie’s husband, Tom Crean, was guiding his highly-ranked Indiana University basketball team to victories.

Mom and pop Harbaugh spent their time in the basement of their Mequon, Wis., home watching TV as Jim’s San Francisco 49ers rallied to beat Atlanta 28-24 in the NFC championship game. And then the Harbaughs got to see John’s Baltimore Ravens topple the New England Patriots 28-13.

All through those two games I wondered how much influence the elder Harbaugh had when both of his sons made dramatic changes late in the season. Jim changed 49er quarterbacks and John changed Ravens offensive coordinators. Their daddy is probably the only man they could ask for advice without anyone else knowing. John, 50, is 15 months older than Jim.

The Super Bowl is set for 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, and will be televised by CBS (WLKY-32).