ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Mag’s profile of Harbaugh, Meyer uncovers remarkable shared history

ESPN The Magazine’s College Football Preview Issue.
Artist Eddie Guy created this depiction of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh for ESPN The Magazine’s College Football Preview Issue.
The Mag’s Creative Director, Chin Wang on cover artwork:
“We knew we wanted to do a fun twist with Harbaugh’s infamous khaki pants. In fact, one of our ideas was to have the coach be photographed ironing his pants. When that didn’t happen, we decided to do an illustration and reached out to artist Eddie Guy, who does fantastic caricatures and brainstormed this idea of Harbaugh leading an army of khaki-clad Michigan men.”

ESPN The Magazine’s College Football Preview Issue features senior writer Brett Forrest’s cover story titled “Natural Born Rivals.”

It documents the historical parallels that existed on the Ohio-Michigan border long before Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer met for the first time at an annual Big Ten coaches meeting in February. Harbaugh and Meyer have more in common than even they knew. They have long been destined to lead the game’s most storied rivalry. But even they’re surprised to learn of their remarkable shared history, including being born in the same Toledo hospital.

Harbaugh and Meyer are notoriously poor interview subjects. How did you get the most out of two men who might not be all that excited about being interviewed?
I’m always trying for a discussion, rather than instituting a grilling. If you bring knowledge to the subject matter, and if you prepare strong topics – not rehash – and if you listen, you should do well. With Meyer, this strategy worked. He bit down on what I gave him. With Harbaugh, things were trickier. Harbaugh forces you to be quick on your feet, ready to move laterally. He’s witty. I enjoyed the challenge. I was pleased with what we got out of each interview.

How did you discover they were born in the same hospital?
This took some sleuthing. The real investigation was figuring out which doctors had delivered each coach and then tracking down their children. I spent a lot of time on this, and it paid off in the end.

What did you find most challenging about this story?
Considering the ink that’s been spilled on the Michigan and Ohio State rivalry, it takes plenty of effort and a bit of good fortune to find something new to say about it.

What surprised you most about what you uncovered in your reporting?
Each program finds self-worth through this ongoing competition with the other school. They are each other’s wingman, a bit lost and ineffectual outside the context that the other provides.

ESPN The Magazine College Football Preview Special Presented by DISH will air tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

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