OUT OF BOUNDS: Search is on for clues to Harbaugh’s sudden exit

Kyle Hightower

I keep looking.

I keep looking for the signs.

I keep looking for the clues.

I keep looking for the thing I must have missed when I last sat down with Jack Harbaugh in mid-January for one of those hour or so-long chats we had from time to time over the past few years.

Because what I saw in those 63-year-old eyes and heard in that raspy, yet humble, voice weren’t the tidings of a man about to lace up worn boots and hop on his trusty horse to ride off to California to be with his grandchildren.

Nope, this is what I heard:

“I know I’m getting close to the end, but I keep thinking there is something else I want before I can do it…Maybe this is it, but I don’t see that…”

I even got a long anecdotal story to support that.

“We had our last team meeting of the season the other night to vote on MVP and other awards like that and afterward we excused the seniors. How it (having the final meeting and excusing seniors) all started I don’t know, when we started it I don’t know. It’s morning time again and I’m looking forward to preparing for 2003.”

Huh?

I’ll keep looking, because this doesn’t smell like the Jack Harbaugh I have come to know.

This sounds jacked up, sure. But not Jack Harbaugh.

Another really perplexing thing about this is the timing. Harbaugh resigned roughly two and a half months after hoisting up his first national championship.

In my mind, if he was planning to pull a John Wayne, he would have done it at the latest about a month afterward. You don’t come back and go on recruiting trips and talk about the future.

Along those lines, Harbaugh is ever the people’s coach. He used to jaw at great length about how his biggest concern always and forever being his blood family and his larger football family that has grown significantly over 41 years of coaching.

He talked about how the building and shaping of young men to be better men and seeing young coaches prosper meant more than a trophy ever could.

I don’t doubt the validity of his concern, but wonder what might have happened between mid-January and now that has made Harbaugh walk away at the pinnacle of his time on the Hill?

The easy targets are the duels at the WKU Coral that Harbaugh and the administration have had for some time – first when they tried to take his program away and more recently when it seemed they didn’t want him to stay.

Because even when his latest and documented contract fight ended with President Gary Ransdell seemingly being a buffer between a scowling Harbaugh and growling Athletic Director Wood Selig, even a one-paragraph contract laden with lots of ambiguity never really put out the coals.

After his resignation Harbaugh said, “My tank is empty…I’ve kind of been worn down and am more knowledgeable about my age and been a little drained more and more.”

Can’t you just hear the undertones? And I’ve heard the valid reasons for his absence, but less we forget, Selig wasn’t even there when Harbaugh planted a red and white flag on the top of I-AA football in December.

Even if it wasn’t a true jerk move, it wasn’t a peace offering by any means either.

All I know, all any of us know right now is that Western has lost a jewel and left a heap of questions in the wake. Frankly it all seems kind of abrupt. And it definitely doesn’t smell like the Jack Harbaugh I have come to look forward to sitting down with for another hour or so-long conversation.

Then again, that was January.

I still can’t but wonder what happened.

I’ll keep looking.

Kyle Hightower is a sports columnist and sports editor for the Herald. He can be reached at by e-mail at [email protected]