The stunning news was well received by the sold-out crowd that had gathered in Gov. Sandoval’s backyard to help support university athletics.
Harbaugh said he was impressed with the facilities at UNR and added that he loved the thought of putting his charges through their paces at 4,500 feet altitude. He complimented Nevada head coach Chris Ault on the quality of all the facilities at the school as well as his great year during 2010 and the subsequent bowl game win.
Strangely enough, Harbaugh’s bombshell announcement about the possibility of the Niner training camp in Reno had received no print or electronic coverage up until presstime of this column on Wednesday of this week.
If the training camp move does eventuate it would add tremendously to the local tourist base as well as bringing national and possibly international press coverage for the region.
Harbaugh gave a driving, motivational type speech to his audience and was interrupted several times with standing ovations. His theme was “complacency kills!” and he tied it in with the current “high” the university must be feeling, footballwise, because of the stellar past season.
“Always try to achieve more,” Harbaugh noted, “never rest on your laurels, because the opponents are just waiting for you to let down your guard so they can emerge the winner!”
He added that the best way to keep sharp and focused was to set goals that would push you to do more than what brought you previous success.
Judging by his tone and intensity it seemed that he had learned a lot from his original NFL coach, Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears. It was easy to see that Harbaugh is a no-nonsense coach and one that can make his point to players, both eloquently and loudly.
All told, Harbaugh spent 15 seasons in the NFL, during which time he played for five different teams: the Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and the Carolina Panthers. He currently ranks in the top 50 of NFL quarterbacks in two categories: completion (41st) and past attempts (45th).
In addition to coach Ditka, Harbaugh gave great credit to his university coach, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. He said the work ethic and the love of the game that carried him through his professional career was due in large part to the inspirational Bo. At the University of Michigan, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to two bowl appearances and garnered big 10 player-of-the-year honors.
Harbaugh was named head coach of the 49ers on Jan. 7 of this year after four years as head coach at Stanford University. Prior to Stanford, he was the head coach at the University of San Diego for three years. He is regarded as one of the top up and coming coaches in the country.
Among Harbaugh’s many accomplishments at Stanford were orchestrating two of the highest scoring teams in school history, three of the top four rushing teams in program history and back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1995 and ’96. He also coached back-to-back Heisman Trophy finalists in running back Toby Gerhart and quarterback Andrew Luck.
Interestingly enough, Harbaugh came out of high school in Palo Alto, Calif., which is where Stanford is located and nearby to where the current 49er training camp is located.
During his talk Harbaugh said that he felt that the NFL lockout situation could be resolved in a matter of a week or so that he was anxious to get his players together on the practice field for the first time. He predicted that if the Niners played up to their potential that his could be a big year for them. That remark brought one of the standing ovations. Harbaugh also was high in his praise of Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, who has been drafted by the 49ers. Colin was a four-year starter for the Wolf Pack and set many new records at his quarterback position. Kaepernick’s parents also were in attendance at the dinner.
Prior to the outdoor festivities, the dinner of which was catered by the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno, some purchasers of special tickets were treated to a VIP reception where they could have their pictures taken with Harbaugh and Kaepernick. Those photos can be viewed on www.nevada-wolfpack.com.
Awards presented during the evening included the Jake Lawlor award which was given to Dixie May. Jim Bauserman served as emcee and the auction was run by Jim Minor.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.