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Jack Harbaugh: A Phi Delt Fatherly Connection to the Har-Bowl


harbaugh_pdtBy Betsy Groton, Communications Intern

Regardless of your relationship with the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, when you watch the Super Bowl this weekend, you should note the special connection with the organization. Jack Harbaugh, father of the two Super Bowl head coaches, is a Phi Delta Theta alumnus of the Ohio Kappa Chapter at Bowling Green State University.

Jack is an impressive football coach in his own right. His knowledge and love for the game thrived when he played for BGSU from 1957-1960, and then for the New York Titans in 1961, before beginning his 43-year coaching career. Jack’s time as a coach began in 1964 at a small high school in southwestern Ohio. He led Eaton High School’s football program to its first winning record in years. After coaching high school teams, Jack moved to the university level.

He coached at Morehead State University, Bowling Green State University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Stanford University, University of Pittsburgh, and University of San Diego, but he is best known for his 13 years as head coach at Western Kentucky University. Jack completely transformed the football program at WKU from the moment he accepted his position as head coach until the moment he announced his resignation. His success led to his team winning the division 1-AA National Championship in 2002.

Through his own experience as a coach, Jack has also helped his sons’ careers develop. In 2002, the year that WKU won a national title, John, the older son, helped recruit players for the national championship team and Jim, the younger son, helped his father coach. Both men greatly contributed to the accomplishments of the WKU Hilltopper team.

This may be the first time that two brothers have ever coached against each other in the Super Bowl, but this won’t be the first time that John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and Jim, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, face off on the football field. On November 24, 2011, the 49ers took on the Ravens in what came to be known as the “Harbaugh Bowl.” In this matchup, John and the Ravens took the victory with a final score of 16-6. For Super Bowl XLVII, Jim is hoping for a better feat.

Although a rivalry definitely exists amongst these siblings, there does not seem to be any hard feelings. It helps that Jack, his wife, Jackie, and the boys’ sister, Joani Crean, are firmly refusing to choose sides. In an interview with the Washington Times on Thursday, January 24th, Jackie said, “I am going to be neutral in the game, and I know one [son] is going to win and one [son] is going to lose, but I would really like the game to end in a tie. Can the NFL do that?” Each family member plans on wearing neutral colors to the game in order to publicly demonstrate their impartiality.

Jack told reporters; “Probably the greatest advice that I’ve ever been given, and the only advice that I’ve ever found to be true in all of coaching…is, `Get ahead, stay ahead’…If I’m called upon [by John or Jim], I’ll repeat that same message.” Other than those four words, Jack Harbaugh plans on staying out of it.