I don’t have a preference on the Super Bowl match up between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. For the sake of the owners, coaches, players, fans, bettors or anyone else who gives a toot, I hope it’s a competitive contest that everyone can feel somewhat good about when it’s over.
The one person I’m cheering for in the Super Bowl is Jack Harbaugh, the father of the Super Bowl coaches -- Jim and John.
I got to know Jack when he was coaching the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers from 1989-2002., compiling a 91-68 record.
I was an AP sportswriter at the time, and every year I’d make the rounds to I-A and I-AA schools to interview coaches and players for season previews. And occasionally, if there wasn’t a conflict with University of Kentucky or University of Louisville games, I’d cover the big I-AA games.
I always looked forward to my trips to Bowling Green. Sports information director Paul Just would set up the interview with Jack in the coach’s office and I’d spend an hour or so asking questions about his squad.
And then we’d talk about other things, such as his year at Morehead State in the late 1960s (where I was a student for two years) and his cousin Mike Gottfried. Jack is a great storyteller and loves a great story.
Harbaugh didn’t arrive at Western at the best of times. There had been discussions about ending the football program. But Harbaugh was a great choice for the school because he wasn’t a quitter. On top of that, he’s such a positive and upbeat person. It was contagious.
Harbaugh rallied the students, alumni and townsfolk, and with some assistance from his sons (shoe donations, etc.), he turned the seemingly moribund program around to a winner. In 2002, he led the ‘Toppers to a I-AA national championship.
He left after the 2002 season to become an associate athletic director at Marquette University, where his son-in-law, Tom Crean (now at Indiana University), was the head basketball coach.
I was fortunate to interview Jack again in 2003 for a program article for his induction into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. He was most deserving of the honor for what he accomplished at WKU.
I recall Jack being so proud of his family. The outcome Super Bowl is probably unimportant to him because he knows both of his sons are winners -- just like Dad.
Until the next time…