We’ve seen many family ties in sports over the years, but for the first time ever the Super Bowl features two brothers as head coaches. Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens square off against the San Francisco 49ers brothers John and Jim Harbaugh will make sports history.
The Harbaugh family is center stage as NFL fans await the “Harbaugh Bowl” Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. And, who has the most unique perspective on this game--the parents of the coaches. Earlier this week Jack and Jackie Harbaugh spoke to the media about their sons coaching in the big game. The Harbaugh family has deep ties to football.
Jack credited his wife for engaging their sons early in the game, “Again, I have to point to Jackie. In coaching, a lot of times I left before the sun came up and came home after the sun went down. Jackie has a great philosophy and that is that she wanted her children to know what their father did. She wanted them to understand who he was and what he did. I can remember when they could just barely walk, John and Jim, that she’d bring them out to the practice field. We’d be practicing and they’d be around jumping on the dummies and then they learned they could throw the ball around. Then they learned they could get into the locker room and meet the players and those kinds of things. We would invite our players at Iowa and Michigan when they were growing up to come to the house on Thursday. That was the day we had off. Jackie would cook a great meal for them and then pretty soon they were wrestling on the floor. Jackie always involved our children in the job that we were involved with.”
Jack Harbaugh played football and coached football for many years including serving as an assistant under one of the most successful coaches in the game--Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. That stint led to coaching jobs at Stanford, Western Michigan, Pittsburgh, Western Kentucky, San Diego and Stanford. Jack Harbaugh’s history is truly amazing and his deep connections to sports go beyond football. He established a close relationship with world champion boxer Muhammad Ali.
And, let’s not forget Jack’s better half, Jackie! While all that football was going on she was the glue holding the family together at home. The success of her children makes the case that she’s as successful a mother as her husband is a coach. And, she passed the baton to her daughter Joanie, who’s the wife Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.
Mother Jackie Harbaugh says her sons competing in the Super Bowl is without question a very big moment for the Harbaugh family. “I would honestly have to say that the birth of our own children and then the birth of our grandchildren are the most important to me and this is like frosting on the cake for our whole family, our extended family which includes a lot of relatives. I might take this time, if I may, to thank all those friends and families and all those ex-football players that have called us to congratulate John and Jim. They’re so excited for this, because they feel they’re part of this, too. It’s fun hearing from them and sharing this moment with them.”
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh talked about the reality that one son will win and the other will lose a Super Bowl. While they look forward to celebrating winning a world championship, they will feel deeply for the son who loses.
So, as history is made again on Super Sunday; history will be made in the Harbaugh family. I believe all of us who have children…all of us who have siblings…can just imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of the Jim and John Haubaugh and their parents Jack and Jackie. What a super dilemma to have!