Harbaugh Falcon Spirit!

Jack Harbaugh ’61, ’63, credits BGSU for his success on and off the football field.

Falcon fans across the nation went wild when Jack Harbaugh ’61, ’63 opened his Super Bowl XLVII Media Center interview with an enthusiastic shout out to Bowling Green State University and legendary Hall of Fame Coach Doyt Perry.

Jack and Jackie (Cipiti) ’61, ’63 Harbaugh’s two sons faced off as rival coaches in Super Bowl XLVII, the first such pairing in Super Bowl history. Brothers John and Jim, separated by just 15 months in age, stood on opposite sidelines when the game kicked off — Jim as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and John as head coach of the victorious Baltimore Ravens. On Thanksgiving 2011, the Harbaughs had first made NFL history by becoming the first brothers to compete as head coaches.

A deep love of family and football unites the Harbaugh clan and Jack says it all started at BGSU. “I met my wife at Bowling Green and played for Doyt Perry, one of the best college coaches in history,” Jack said. “I returned to the University to work with another of the country’s leading coaches, Don Nehlen. These men are just legends in the football community, and I am so honored that they were part of my life.”

Jack credits Doyt Perry for sharing the best piece of advice he ever received. “Marry well!” Perry implored Jack’s freshman football class.

Jack and Jackie first met during their freshman year. “Jackie sat two rows in front of me in our freshman biology class,” said Jack. With only 3,000 students on campus at the time, they were often classmates but Jack said he “just stumbled around for two years,” before working up the courage to ask her for a date.

Now he can’t imagine what his life would have been like without her. “Jackie has been the foundation of our family. All of our successes are due to her,” Jack frequently tells people, including scores of press members he spoke to during the Super Bowl
media frenzy.

During Jack’s 43-year coaching career, the family moved 17 times. He served as head football coach for Western Michigan University and Western Kentucky University and was an assistant coach at Bowling Green State University, Morehead State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Stanford University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of San Diego.

As the story of the Harbaugh brothers captured national attention, Jack and Jackie proudly proclaimed their love for one another, their family and BGSU.

A former BGSU cheerleader, Jackie shared Jack’s love of football and took Jim and John to their father’s football practices at BGSU as soon as they could walk. The team included the boys in drills and Jackie opened her home to the Falcon players. Jim and John learned the lyrics to “Ay Ziggy Zoomba” the way some children learn nursery rhymes. Before he was the 49ers coach, Jim even taught the song to his players when he was head coach at Stanford and his team sang their own version of the song after Cardinal wins.

Daughter Joani also shares a love of sports and is a fierce competitor. She is married to Tom Crean, head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, one of the best collegiate basketball teams in the country.

For Jack and Jackie, connections with family and friends are what matters. In fact, they say the best part of the Super Bowl spotlight was the opportunity to reconnect with friends, teammates and coaches from across the country, including Doyt Perry’s daughter.

“Being at BG as a student and then as a coach were some of the best times. It has just been a thrill to rekindle those wonderful relationships,” Jack said.

They recently returned from an informal reunion with Jack’s 1961 Falcon gridiron team. “Fifteen of us were able to get together and when I looked around the table I realized we were all first-generation students who never would have gotten where we are in life without BGSU. Additionally, we all met our wives at Bowling Green and are all still Falcon Flames.”

Ay Ziggy Zoomba!

Nearly 75 years ago, Gilbert Fox, an original SICSIC member, World War II veteran and musicologist wrote "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" and introduced the tune to Bowling Green. In 2013, the BGSU Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution formally supporting the promotion of “Ay Ziggy Zoomba” to the status of an official fight song of the University.

Updated: 08/11/2022 10:19AM