What Jack Harbaugh Gave To Football Besides His Super Bowl Sons
We can all thank Jack and Jackie Harbaugh for the game America is about to watch. For the first time in history, two brothers, Jim and John, will face off as coaches in the Super Bowl. A pretty nice legacy for the Harbaugh family, but Jack left his mark way before this game.
Thanks to Jack Harbaugh, I was able to enjoy countless Saturdays in the fall, walking from my dorm in Bowling Green, Kentucky to enjoy some tailgating, before watching an exciting game of football from the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. You see, many credit Jack Harbaugh with saving the WKU football program. I guess the small, independent, division 1-AA team wasn't doing enough to help the school, but boy did that change.
Because of Jack's dedication to the football at WKU, the program grew. The teams got better. He even used help from his sons who were official/unofficial members of the coaching staff to recruit better players to Bowling Green. As 'volunteer' coaches, they used their name and clout to make players aware of little old Bowling Green, Kentucky and the Hilltoppers. By 2002, Jack Harbaugh had built a team good enough to win the National Championship. Just before my last semester at Western, I could boast my team as the 1-AA National Champs!
Harbaugh's retirement following that season did not end the progression. In the 10 years since, the team has moved to the Bowl division, the highest division in college football. They've joined the Sun Belt Conference. They've added new practice facilities, and expanded the the once meager L.T. Smith Stadium. The new addition even has a club level named after Jack and Jackie Harbaugh. This season saw WKU beat in-state rival, Kentucky and end the season, making it to its first ever bowl game, The Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
All this can be traced back to the dedication of Jack Harbaugh to the football program he believed in. So when you're watching football on the biggest stage, as Jim Harbaugh's 49ers and John Harbaugh's Ravens square off next Sunday, I bet that's Jack Harbaugh's proudest moment, but it can't be that far off from saving a little football program in Kentucky and watching it continue to grow. Go Tops!