It will be a special Christmas for the Stanford football team and the Harbaugh family. Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh has his father, Jack, on his coaching staff again. Father and son will enjoy the holiday before they board a plane together on Saturday for next week's Brut Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Jim hired his father to be the interim running backs coach for Stanford's first bowl game since 2001. Jack replaces Willie Taggart, who was hired last month as the head coach at Western Kentucky, his alma mater.
"He's the best coach I know," Jim Harbaugh said.
The football team is familiar with the elder Harbaugh, taking his lead in singing a victory song after certain football games.
This is Jack Harbaugh's third stint of coaching with his son. The first was when Jim was head coach at UC San Diego in 2004 and Jack was an offensive assistant. The two were together at Western Kentucky from 1994 to 2001.
Jack Harbaugh is a veteran of 43 years in the coaching ranks -- 38 of those at the college level. He was an assistant coach at Stanford in the early 1980s when Jim played quarterback across the street at Palo Alto.
Jack coached the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the NCAA I-AA National Championship in 2002. Following that magical season, during which he was named American Coaches Association National Coach of the Year, he stepped away from coaching and for two seasons while holding the position of Associate Director of Athletics at Marquette University.
Under his guidance, WKU was the only I-AA school in the nation to rank in the top 10 in rushing offense every year since 1991, a run that stood at 12 straight through the 2002 campaign.
Additionally, 33 WKU student-athletes earned All-America recognition, including three who were named first- or second-team Academic All-America.
Harbaugh's WKU teams ranked among the most productive offensive squads in Western's history, posting some of the most impressive performances ever on the Hill, in both single-game and season-long numbers.
Harbaugh also served as defensive backfield coach for the legendary Bo Schembechler at Michigan for seven years (1973-79).
Those Wolverine teams won five Big Ten Championships (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979). Michigan played in the 1976 Orange Bowl and made three trips to the Rose Bowl ('77, '78 and '79). His seven Wolverine teams were 66-13-3 (.823) overall.
Jim Harbaugh's first Pac-10 media day in 2006 was full of references to his coaching influences.
"There are two people in my life, my dad and Bo Schembechler, where now that I'm 43 years old I feel like the things that come out of my mouth and the ways that I think - I can hear Bo Schembechler talking," Harbaugh said. "I'll say something and turn around and say, 'That's something Bo would have said.' Both of those people are individuals with such strong will and tremendous character. It's not like you take notes on how to be like Bo Schembechler or Jack Harbaugh. It's almost like they will their DNA on you."
Now, Jack Harbaugh is helping his son attempt to bring Stanford another bowl game victory. The Cardinal's last triumph in the postseason came in 1996 when Stanford defeated Michigan State, 36-0.
As part of his new job, Jack Harbaugh now is responsible for coaching Heisman Trophy runnerup Toby Gerhart and helping the Cardinal solve a Sooners' defense ranked seventh in the nation against the run.
Father and son were on the Palo Alto High football field this week as Stanford prepared for the Sun Bowl, which also will be played on artificial turf. The team's final practice there will be Wednesday before the players and coaches take Thursday and Friday off for the Christmas holiday.
Of Jim Harbaugh's name cropping up in recent coaching rumors, Jack Harbaugh told Dave Birkett of AnnArbor.com earlier this year:
"I think he's very, very happy at Stanford and Stanford is where he wants it to be. But I would say this: that still Michigan is the place that he loves, the place that for him was his foundation. It's where, the five years he spent there, his education there at Michigan and his associations with Bo and the other coaches on the staff, that' the place that he will always call home."
Following Stanford's win over USC, the elder Harbaugh also said: "I can just see Bo up in heaven, he's talking to Woody (Hayes) and he's got a big old cigar and he and Woody are looking down on the game and he looks over to Woody and he says, 'That Jimmy Harbaugh, that's the way the game's supposed to be played,' taking real pride in it, and I truly believe that he does take pride in it."
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