Former WKU coach Harbaugh returns ‘home’

Emily Patton

Jack Harbaugh said coming back to WKU is like coming home.

Harbaugh, the father of two NFL head coaches and a former head coach himself of the Toppers during the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA win, returned to the Hill on Tuesday.

“It is like a little kid coming back home,” Harbaugh said. “No more beautiful word in the English language than homecoming. So I include this in those homecoming moments.”

The visit is one that mirrors a trip he took to Stanford when his son, Jim, was taking over a team that was 1-11. His son had asked him to speak to the staff and players before the next season began.

Like his son, Willie Taggart made a similar phone-call extending an invitation to Harbaugh.

The visit back to WKU has allowed him to weigh in on where the program now stands nine years later.

“Here they have a lot of great things to build on,” Harbaugh said. “I see them climbing to the top of the Sun Belt Conference. I see them playing in bowl games. I see them establishing themselves as a top-flight Division I-A program.”

The staff in place with Taggart, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and the quality of facilities are things Harbaugh said will help bring that success.

Harbough said it is just a matter of time before Taggart’s ability to recruit starts producing noticeable results.

“I think he is a dynamite recruiter,” Harbaugh said. “The last two classes he has had here has demonstrated he can go toes to toes with everyone in the Sun Belt Conference.

“With the recruiting class, the staff and the vision he has, I think it’s just a matter of time before he works his way to the top of the Sun Belt conference.”

The Toppers finished 2-10 in Taggart’s first season as head coach.

Harbaugh said he has no doubts that Taggart will be able to turn around the WKU football program just as he did when he was a player.

“Willie was the guy who came in and literally changed the landscape of football here at Western Kentucky,” he said. “We were struggling along. We had a lot of issues. He came in and put the program on his back and for four years made us respectable.

“We were able to see that light at the end of the tunnel. That light at the end of the tunnel was Willie.”

Harbaugh said it’s so special to see his practically adopted son in person beginning his second year as head coach on the Hill.

“For me this is home,” he said. “Now to see (Taggart), here at Western Kentucky, and know what he is going to mean to this program. It is like a son. I have a son in Baltimore, at the San Francisco 49ers and now I have a son at Western Kentucky.”