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SportsTuesday Column: The making of a champion

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 22, 2013

He ruffled some feathers, spoke his mind just like he did before that game against Ohio State.

Bo wouldn't necessarily have liked the content, but he would have liked the conviction and, most importantly, the thick skin.

After leading the Cardinal to an Orange Bowl victory in 2011, Jim bypassed jobs like the Michigan head-coach position to take the helm of the 49ers.

And now the Harbaughs are here, arrived at the summit of the sports world. It should be no real surprise.

John and Jim were brought up with the perfect mixture for a coach — raised on football, raised by a coach, and babysat by a coach. Yes, babysat. Dave McClain, a longtime Wisconsin coach, was Jack’s teammate at Bowling Green, where their wives were also roommates.

In 1984, when preparing to face a Michigan team quarterbacked by first-year starter Jim Harbaugh, McClain grinned and remarked, “I babysat Jim Harbaugh. I hope he remembers his old buddy.” Jim remembered, but he still bested the Badgers, 20-14.

Heck, even their sister, Joani, married a coach — Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

The Harbaughs learned from the best, taught by legendary coaches from the beginning.

There’s no reason to think they would have ever failed. And they haven’t. Failure isn’t in their pedigree. No NFL team has missed the playoffs with a Harbaugh as head coach.

So, what did you want to be?

These Ann Arbor boys only wanted to be champions. Now that’s only a step away.

— Nesbitt can be reached at or on Twitter: @stephenjnesbitt.