Harbison, who guided the Tide's defensive backs from 1998-2000, comes back to Alabama following two seasons as the defensive back coach at LSU. “Alabama is a special place,” Harbison said earlier. “It’s like no other place I’ve been. It’s a family. The one thing about family is, if you mess with family, you’ve got to deal with some people. There’s a bond here at Alabama.”
Shown on the sidelines at the 2000 Orange Bowl, Harbison helped coach the ’99 squad to the SEC championship.
With Harbison's addition, Shula now has a complete staff for the upcoming season. Harbison's hiring also shifted some current staffers' responsibilities with Sparky Woods taking over the running backs and Dave Ungerer adding tight ends to his special teams duties.
"We have put a lot of time and research into our coaching staff," said Shula, "And looked at many, many candidates. I'm glad to have my staff together. I feel very good about our future. This will be a staff that works well together."
During his first stint at Alabama, Harbison had a well-deserved reputation as one of the best recruiters in the SEC. Hirchel Bolden, Gerald Dixon and Thurman Ward were three defensive backs Harbison had a hand in recruiting. And Tennessee fans haven’t yet forgiven him for “stealing” Cornelius Wortham away from the Volunteers at the last minute. “If the recruits see something in me, it’s not me they’re seeing, but Christ in me,” Harbison said in an earlier interview. “Sincerity is the key, no question. Recruits understand quickly--the parents and the kids--that what they see is who I am.”
Harbison is a devout Christian, who made a point of talking about values with his players when he was at Alabama before. At the time he was very much known as a “players’ coach.” “There’s no question that my players come first with me,” Harbison said. “I’m going to do my job as a coach, but the players are important to me. In my life, Christ comes first, then my family and then my career. I used the word ‘family,’ because my athletes are my family. I love the kids, and I love what I do. The Lord has blessed me to do something I love.”
While at LSU, Harbison helped mold the Tiger's defensive backfield into one of the national and SEC leaders in pass defense and was a member of the 2001 SEC Championship coaching staff.
During his first stint with the Crimson Tide, Harbison's charges were consistently around the top of the SEC in pass defense and played a key part in the Alabama's 1999 SEC Championship run. Former Tide defensive back and first-round NFL selection Fernando Bryant was one of Harbison's pupils in the Bama secondary.
Shown clapping at practice in 2000, this will be Harbison’s second stint coaching at Alabama.
Prior to his first stop at Alabama, Harbison served as the defensive backs coach for Clemson for three seasons (1995-97). He also coached defensive backs at UTEP in 1994 and served a pair of stints with his alma mater, Gardner Webb, coaching wide receivers (1992-93) and defensive backs (1984-85).
In addition to his collegiate coaching experiences, Harbison spent time coaching in both the Arena Football League and the World League of American Football. His professional football coaching stays included serving as the defensive coordinator for the Charlotte Rage in 1993-94. Harbison's coaching career began as the linebackers coach for East Lincoln (N.C.) High School.
A native of Shelby, N.C., Harbison graduated from Gardner Webb College with a business administration degree in 1982. A two-sport star in football and track at Gardner Webb, he was a free agent signee for the Buffalo Bills following his senior season. His professional playing career included stops with the USFL's Boston Breakers (1983) and New Orleans Breakers (1984) and concluded with a two seasons with the Bills.
Harbison was born on October 27, 1959. He and his wife, Gloria, who passed away earlier this year after battling cancer, have four children - Charlie, Stedman, Masai and Meiba.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry White of UA’s Media Relations Department contributed a large part of this report.