SJSU could use Captain Comeback?

More rumors abound, and names afloat in regards to the next Spartan head coach. Will it be Malley, Neuheisel, Shea, or even Bill Walsh himself?

Nine Division I-A football programs currently have no coach. At least eight of them are doing something about it.

When San Jose State gets around to looking for one, which is after the Spartans get around to hiring an athletic director, Morning Buzz knows one person who should get a call: Jim Harbaugh.

The 15-year NFL quarterback was 7-4 in his first year at Division I-AA University of San Diego. The Toreros averaged 36 points and 432 yards a game for Harbaugh and his father and assistant coach, Jack, whose four decades in coaching include a stint at Stanford and the 2002 I-AA championship at Western Kentucky.

Saving SJSU will require excitement on offense, because would-be fans -- and especially recruits -- will tune in a lot more for 45-41 than for 16-13. It's also going to require a big-time quarterback, as it did at the University of Miami (Jim Kelly), the University of Houston (Andre Ware) and Fresno State (David Carr).

Maybe Harbaugh could attract a big-name quarterback. Or maybe he could create one. Other points to ponder:

• Which name would inspire you to read an article or buy a ticket -- Harbaugh, or whatever anonymous assistant might be the next Dave Baldwin / Fitz Hill?

• Beginning coaches don't command out-of-WAC salaries. (Which is a good answer to all those Rick Neuheisel rumors.)

• He can play from behind. Division I-AA scholarship limit: 63. USD's total: zero.

• Local ties -- Palo Alto High Class of '82 and Raiders assistant in 2002 and '03.

• He is said to love recruiting -- not just tolerate it, not just manage it well, love it.

Anyone who knew him in the NFL would recognize that enthusiasm. Spartans fans should expect nothing less.

Background info on Harbaugh:

Jim Harbaugh was named head football coach at the University of San Diego on December 20th, 2003.

It was announced by Ky Snyder, Executive Director of Athletics and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, and Jo-Ann Nester, USD Athletic Director, at a news conference on campus.

Harbaugh, who just completed his second year as an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders where he coached the quarterbacks, joined the Torero staff immediately following the completion of Oakland's 2003 season. Harbaugh is the program's 11th head coach dating back to 1956.

"We are extremely excited to announce Jim Harbaugh as USD's head football coach," said Ky Snyder, USD's recently appointed Executive Director of Athletics.

"He has played for and learned from some of the biggest names in college and professional football, and I believe that will transcend into a very long and successful career as a head coach.

The Harbaugh name is well recognized throughout college football and Jim will be able to attract and recruit outstanding student-athletes that will help USD compete at a very high level year-in and year-out both on the field and in the classroom."

Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who played 15 seasons in the league, played locally with the Chargers between 1999-2000. The 39-year-old Harbaugh, who resides in nearby Coronado, played in 177 league games with 140 starts since originally entering the NFL as a first round pick by the Chicago Bears in 1987. For his career, he completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 yards with 129 touchdowns.

Added USD Director of Athletics, Jo-Ann Nester, "This is the beginning of a new era for USD football and there is no better person to have at the head of this program than Jim Harbaugh. He brings a depth of playing and coaching experience to us, but more importantly, a passion for this level of football. He truly understands the role of athletics in a rigorous academic environment and has a serious commitment to coaching at the I-AA level. He will be a great for our student-athletes."

Harbaugh played seven seasons for the Bears and passed for a career-high 3,121 yards for Chicago in 1991. He played for the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-97 and in 1995, achieved career highs in completion percentage (63.7) and touchdown passes (17). While with the Colts he led the team to the AFC Championship game; he was voted to the Pro Bowl; he was named the 1995 Comeback Player of the Year and the AFC Player of the Year; and he was runner-up in the NFL MVP voting. Harbaugh played for Baltimore in 1998, and following his two-year stint with the Chargers closed out his NFL career with Carolina in 2001.

"I'd like to thank the University of San Diego for giving me the opportunity to be the head football coach of the USD Toreros," said Jim Harbaugh. "It is truly a privilege and an honor. I'd like to thank the many coaches and players that I have been associated with over the last seventeen years; they have enabled me to be standing here today. To the USD Torero players, past and present, to the parents of our student-athletes, to the USD alumni, the faculty and staff, I embrace this challenge and this role with enormous energy and passion. I am extremely excited and challenged by the high standards set here at the University of San Diego."

Harbaugh was a four-year letterman at the University of Michigan and finished his college career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards and touchdown passes. Playing for Bo Shembechler, he was a three-year starter and led the Wolverines to appearances in the Fiesta, Holiday, and Rose Bowl games. As a senior in 1986 he guided Michigan to a No. 2 national ranking while earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman balloting.

Over his final eight seasons in the NFL (1994-2001) Jim was an NCAA-certified unpaid assistant coach under his father, Jack, at Western Kentucky University. Serving as an offensive consultant, he scouted and recruited high school student-athletes throughout several states including Florida, Indiana and Illinois. He was involved in recruiting 17 players on WKU's 2002 I-AA National Championship team. His dad was a football coach for 41 years, including 14-years as Head Coach at Western Kentucky. His brother, John, is currently Special Teams Coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles; and his brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is Head Basketball Coach of Marquette University.

Harbaugh has been very active in Community Service ventures. He has been actively involved with the Harbaugh Hill Foundation, the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children (Indiana University), Western Kentucky University, the Jim Harbaugh Foundation, the Uhlich's Children's Home and with the Children's Miracle Network.

Jim and his wife, Miah, have two sons, Jay and James, Jr., and one daughter, Grace.

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