Harbaugh Family: Growing Up as Joani Harbaugh
Super Bowl XLVII pits the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh against the Ravens' John Harbaugh. Patch shares the story of the Harbaugh family leading into Super Bowl Sunday.
Finding time with dad can be a challenge when your father is a college football coach.
It can be especially challenging if you're the lone daughter amongst three siblings.
For Joani Harbaugh, spending time with her father, Jack Harbaugh, meant tagging along to practices.
"Well, it was your life. I didn’t know I was in a coaching environment, I just felt that was how we lived, that’s what my dad did for a living," she said on a national media conference call last week. "Luckily, I think as parents, they involved their kids in their professional life. So if dad had practice, mom took us out to practice; that’s how we saw dad in the afternoon. Or we sat down at the kitchen table and I’d color his scouting reports because he was working, so that’s how you’d spend time. I think they were no different than any other parents. That’s just how we’d spend time, it was around football."
It didn't stop with coloring. Joani became handy at other tasks, too.
"She was the best hot-splicer that we ever had in our program, and that’s including a lot of great coaches along the years. Most coaches now, the young coaches, will have no idea what we’re talking about," Jack Harbaugh said.
Joani would cut 16-mm film with scissors, and tape together all the defensive plays on one reel, all the offensive ones on another. Today, technology has rendered the duty unnecessary.
"Joani would come into the office on Saturday and hot splice, boom, boom, boom—here, dad. And very seldom, she’d get them backwards where the numbers were backwards and that was one of the no-nos in that particular profession," Jack said. "But she was the very best."
She took on the playbook mentality, too, when it came to rehearsing lines for a school play.
"I was a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. I was highly, highly offended," she joked. "I do remember that I was not Dorothy or Glinda so I decided to memorize the entire play in case anybody went down with the flu or something.... So, I was just ready, ready to do. But I do still love the Wizard of Oz."
She agreed with one reporter's sentiment that memorizing the entire play in preparation was simply "the Harbaugh Way."
"I guess we all do it in our own way," she said.
Joani married Tom Crean, who is now the head men's basketball coach at Indiana University, overseeing the renaissance of the storied Hoosiers program. The couple has three children.
But come Sunday, she'll be the little sister again, stuck in the middle, between John and Jim, much like she was on road trips as a child.
"Actually, I got to ride in the front seat because when I rode in the backseat, I got car sick and I would get ill. And if I rode in the back seat, I believe it was Jim that liked the wider space and he’d shove me over to John’s square in the car. So, I just thought it’d be nice if they could get a little more room and I sat up there in the middle of mom and dad."
Come Sunday, she'll be spending plenty of time with Mom and Dad—and it won't involve coloring or splicing tape, either.