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Jim Harbaugh’s football success spotlights bond with his dad

Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates after defeating the Washington Huskies during the 2024 CFP National Championship game


John Touhey - published on 01/11/24

Jack Harbaugh was a football coach for 47 years. His sons also became coaches, fulfilling their dad's saying: “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

College football coach Jim Harbaugh has had quite a year so far. On January 3, his Michigan Wolverines defeated Alabama in overtime in the Rose Bowl 27-20. Then on Monday, his team soundly defeated the Washington Huskies to win the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship. The Wolverines completed the season 15-0.

While this past football season was not without controversy for Harbaugh, no one can deny that he is an accomplished coach and team-builder. After his team’s amazing run, there are now rumors that Jim Harbaugh will return to the NFL. (He previously coached the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014.)

In his father’s footsteps

Harbaugh has been vocal about the importance of his Catholic faith in his life. His family also had a major impact on him, and in particular his relationship with his father, Jack Harbaugh. The senior Harbaugh had a long career as a football coach in the high school and college ranks, from 1961 – 2009.

Jack Harbaugh and his wife Jackie raised three children. Remarkably, both the Harbaugh sons, Jim and John, followed in their father’s footsteps to become football coaches. Jim and John Harbaugh would go on to become the first brothers to coach in the NFL. They made history when their teams, the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, faced off in Super Bowl XLVII.

Their father’s influence can be most famously seen in the Michigan team call-and-response: “Who’s got it better than us? NOBODY!” It’s a phrase that Jack Harbaugh would say to his sons, as recounted in a moving video produced by ESPN’s Marty Smith, which he shared on his X account:

As the video makes clear, Jack Harbaugh remains a strong influence on both of his sons’ lives. He still watches practice tapes for the Wolverines and the Ravens just in case Jim or John wants to reach out to him for advice. And after Jim was suspended for three games by the NCAA this season (which was then followed by another controversial suspension), Jack Harbaugh came out of retirement to serve as an assistant coach for Michigan – a role he was serving in when they won the national championship this week.

The story of the Harbaughs should be a reminder to all fathers and mothers of the critical role they can play in their children’s lives as they struggle to overcome adversity and achieve their goals.

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