Sports Outside the Beltway

Jim Harbaugh Hired as Stanford Head Coach

Former Bears QB Jim Harbaugh has been hired to replace Walt Harris at Stanford.

Stanford hired former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh on Monday to take over its struggling football program. Harbaugh had spent the last three years as head coach at the University of San Diego, a non-scholarship Division I-AA program. He led the Toreros to a 29-6 record, winning 27 of his final 29 games at San Diego. The school planned to formally introduce Harbaugh at a news conference Tuesday. Phone messages left for Harbaugh were not immediately returned.

Harbaugh has the tough task of turning around the Cardinal, who set a school record for losses in a 1-11 season this year that led to the firing of coach Walt Harris. Stanford has won just 16 games in the past five seasons under Harris and Buddy Teevens, and have to struggled to compete in the Pac-10 since Tyrone Willingham left for Notre Dame following the 2001 season.

The first challenge for Harbaugh will be recruiting talented players who can meet Stanford’s stringent academic requirements. Harris and Teevens both struggled in that aspect of the job.

Harbaugh was a star in college at Michigan, finishing third in the voting for the 1986 Heisman Trophy award. But he does have ties to Stanford, where his father, Jack, served as defensive coordinator in 1980-81. Harbaugh spent his final two years as a prep player at Palo Alto High School before going to Michigan.

In all honesty, I didn’t realize Harbaugh was coaching these days. A former NFL quarterback has a huge advantage in recruiting, though, because it gives him instant credibility with blue chip athletes who are dreaming of a pro career.

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