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February 23, 2012
MORE: Video: Full post-game presser | Perfect non-conference slate | Recruiting scoop
Before the game, Jim Harbaugh tucked himself on the far end of the Indiana bench where it appeared he would have a nice view to watch his brother-in-law's game.
Harbaugh decided watching wasn't enough.
The San Francisco 49ers coach played team manager for the Hoosiers Wednesday night, carrying out chairs and setting them up for the players at the start of timeouts then carrying them back.
Each timeout, Harbaugh, dressed in a black shirt and khaki slacks, grabbed a handful of red chairs, unfolded them for the players, waited behind the team huddle, then folded up the chairs and toted them off the floor.
"I never sat on the bench before," Harbaugh said. "I felt like I should be contributing in some way."
Harbaugh was in Indiana for the start of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and made the short drive down to Bloomington to see his brother-in-law, Tom Crean, and sister, Joani.
"The only thing Jim was missing was his black 49ers hat," Crean said after IU's 75-56 victory.
In the postgame news conference, Crean was asked tongue-in-cheek if Harbaugh, a Michigan graduate, was a Michigan spy. "Hell no," Harbaugh bellowed from the back of the room.
Harbaugh spoke to the Indiana players prior to the game. He and his brother John, the Baltimore Ravens head coach, spoke to the Hoosiers Feb. 2. Two nights later, IU beat Purdue 78-61.
On Wednesday, Jim Harbaugh was joined by 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, who was a college roommate of IU assistant Tim Buckley at Bemidji State.
"I've got to say this, there's more media at an IU basketball game than at any San Francisco 49ers game we played, expect maybe the playoff game," Harbaugh said as he stood in the hallway between the IU locker room and the media room. "You guys got a good turnout. Indiana basketball is the real deal."
Harbaugh's presence made an impact on the IU players.
"It's an honor," sophomore Victor Oladipo said. "He's a very successful head coach. I believe he was the head coach of the year in the NFL. It's an honor for him to speak to us and sit on our bench. I know he's a relative of coach Crean, but at the end of the day, he's still who he is. For him to talk to us and motivate us, it's a blessing."
Harbaugh is the second notable NFL personality to speak to the IU team. Former Colts president Bill Polian was in the Hoosiers locker room prior to their Dec. 17 game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against Notre Dame, a 69-58 IU win.