Super Bowl coach John Harbaugh to be immortalized in bronze

Dewey Beach artist Kristen Visbal wins commission for sculpture
Sculptor Kristen Visbal is shown in her Lewes studio with the 30-inch-high clay maquette, or miniature study, of John Harbaugh. BY DENNIS FORNEY
September 23, 2013

Winning Super Bowl coach John Harbaugh is to be inducted into Miami University’s Cradle of Coaches and immortalized in bronze. Harbaugh took the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory this year against the San Francisco 49ers, coached by brother Jim Harbaugh, with a winning score of 34-31.

The Cradle of Coaches was a nickname coined by author Bob Kurz and given to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for producing a large number football stars including Earl Blaik, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bill Arnsparger, George Little, Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, John Pont, Carmen Cozza, Bill Mallory, Jim Tressel, Joe Novak, Ron Zook, Dick Crum, Paul Dietzel, William Narduzzi, Randy Walker, John Harbaugh, Gary Moeller, Larry Smith, Dick Tomey, Sean Payton and Terry Hoeppner. Miami University, a school listed as having one of the 17 most beautiful campuses in the U.S., launched the Cradle of Coaches sculpture project in 2009 with a generous $1 million gift from Illinois businessman Dan VanVoorhis. VanVoorhis is the grandson of Thomas P. VanVoorhis, inventor of Collegiate Intramural Sports and was formerly an active figure on the Miami campus.  Thirteen artists were invited to submit for the project, and the commission was won by Lewes artist Kristen Visbal. Visbal came to the attention of the school for her life-and-a-half-sized rendering of Alexander Hamilton in The American Cape installed in Hamilton, Ohio, just 20 minutes away from the Miami campus.

Harbaugh will be inducted into the Cradle of Coaches next year and joins Weeb Ewbank and Paul Brown as those in the collection who won the Super Bowl title. Ewbank took the Baltimore Colts to stardom in 1958 and ‘59. Paul Brown’s namesake team, the Cleveland Browns, won the NFL title in 1950, ’54 and ’55. Requirements for inclusion in the cradle include achieving Coach of the Year on a college or professional level, winning the national college or NFL title or being inducted into the College or Pro Football Hall Of Fame. His sculpture will join those of VanVoorhis, Blaik, Brown, Pont, Parseghian, Cozza, Ewbank, Schembechler and Dietzel, and will be rendered on a heroic scale at 20 percent larger than life.

On receiving news of his impending induction, Harbaugh said, “To me, there is no greater recognition in coaching. To be included with these great men is something only dreamed about.” Miami’s collection of star football and basketball coaches includes some of the greatest coaches ever known. Harbaugh’s sculpture at nearly seven and a half feet will depict him in Ravens jacket and cap with determined fist in the air and will be publicly unveiled April 18, 2014. Harbaugh’s image will be added to the colossal Cradle of Coaches Mural, which hangs over the sculptures and in front of the Yager Stadium scoreboard. Harbaugh, his wife Ingrid and their daughter Alison live in Resiterstown, Md.

Sculptor Kristen Visbal runs a clay modeling studio on the Nassau Valley Vineyards property in Lewes and lives in Dewey Beach. She casts exclusively in bronze and produces her work in Colorado. Public works include "Girl Chasing Butterflies" in Hershey, Pa.; "Alexander Hamilton" in Hamilton, Ohio; "Sea Express" in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.; "Bob Hayes" in Jacksonville, Fla.; "In Search of Atlantis" in Atlantic Beach, Fla.; the 10 heroic Cradle of Coaches works, and her upcoming "Goddess of the Sea" to be unveiled in Myrtle Beach, S.C., next summer. Her work can be viewed at


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