BOZICH: Harbaugh Bowl Took Early Snaps In Kentuckiana
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In case you missed it, John (Ravens) and Jim (49ers) Harbaugh are the first brothers to coach against each other in the Super Bowl.
Oh, you heard? Better try again.
Their brother-in-law is Tom Crean, basketball coach at Indiana University. He is married to their younger sister, Joani. The Creans met when he was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky University.
That one has been around for a few hours, too?
It's third down. What else do I have? Both Harbaughs coached football in this area. Jim helped his father, Jack, resurrect the football program at Western Kentucky. He passed the NCAA recruiting test in 1994, drove to Florida as a volunteer assistant and recruited Willie Taggart. Just like that.
Around WKU they still talk about the Division I-AA championship that Jack Harbaugh won with the Hilltoppers in 2002 – after Jim and John helped their Dad maintain football at WKU with a series of ambitious summer-time fund-raisers. They loved getting their friends involved to help their Dad.
John has his own Kentuckiana roots, too, coaching one season at Morehead State (1988) and another at IU (1997) under Cam Cameron. John was in charge of special teams for the Hoosiers in his final year in college football before he made the move into the NFL with the Eagles.
Nobody was talking about John knocking off Bill Belichick and Tom Brady then. Nobody was sure he'd ever be a head coach. He didn't have the dazzling personal narrative like Jim, the former Michigan quarterback.
Jim was the former NFL quarterback and first-round draft pick, the guy who threw the interception on the audible with the Bears that almost inspired Mike Ditka to choke him. John was just scrambling up the football coaching food chain, the big brother with the big work ethic.
No scoop for me?
Before I punt, it's time for a final Hail Mary.
How did their father and mother, Jack and Jackie, spend the four-hour gap between their wedding and reception in Cleveland more than 51 years ago?
The newlyweds watched the Ohio State-Michigan football game on television with the wedding party – and then celebrated their honeymoon Sunday by attending the Cleveland Browns-New York Giants game because Jack had two free tickets.
If you got that one, congratulations, you know your Harbaughs, America's First Family of Football for the next two weeks. Attend your Super Bowl party with supreme confidence.
But if you need more tidbits, I'll keep trying.
Remember that the Harbaugh Bowl unfolded once during the 2011 regular season and then was almost repeated in last season's Super Bowl.
The Ravens and 49ers played in Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day 2011, a day before the Harbaughs' 50th wedding anniversary. Mom and Dad were so unsettled by the thought of watching their sons coach against each other that they planned to go the stadium early to greet both men – and then retreat to John's house to watch the game on television. (John and the Ravens won, 16-6. Jack and Jackie still live outside Milwaukee because after Jack left WKU he became an assistant athletic director at Marquette, where Crean was the head coach.)
They were one game from a rematch in the Super Bowl last season. But the Giants upset the 49ers in the NFC final and the Patriots outlasted the Ravens in the AFC final.
The next time the brothers were together was at a domed football stadium in Atlanta last March. They both made the trip to Georgia to support Crean when Indiana played Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
They wore red T-shirts with the phrase #BENCHMOB on the front. They cheered like crazy. But they didn't have any answers for Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or UK's 35 of 37 free-throw shooting.
Both John and Jim usually make at least one visit per season to watch Indiana, often in February when they're in the area for the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. John's been spotted sitting on the bench, passing out towels, lining up folding chairs and hustling like a student manager.
That's the way they are. They have always supported Crean.
And he and Joani have always supported John and Jim. I expect they'll do it again in New Orleans Feb. 3 – one day after Indiana plays Michigan (Jim's alma mater) at 9 p.m. in a nationally televised Big Ten game on ESPN.
Crean had this to say on Twitter Sunday night:
"We can't put into words what it means to see John and Jim reach this incredible milestone. We talked to Jim (before) his team plane left (Atlanta). All he wanted to know was how was John doing?
"How were they playing? One incredible family who puts the care, well-being and love for each other at the forefront, like most families do.
"Again, we are very proud of them. Going to be exciting to watch it unfold."
Around Kentuckiana, it's been exciting watching it unfold for more than 20 years.
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