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Stanford close to finalizing new deal for Harbaugh

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Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh is close to completing a contract extension with the school.

Athletic director Bob Bowlsby said Sunday in an e-mail that a formal announcement of a new deal was expected to come shortly. The two sides were close to announcing an extension after last season but talks were put on hold in February because of the poor economy.

Harbaugh has done an impressive rebuilding job at Stanford since taking over a one-win team from Walt Harris after the 2006 season. The Cardinal won four games in Harbaugh’s first season, including big wins over Southern California and California.

Stanford went 5-7 last year, falling one win shy of a possible bowl bid. The turnaround was completed this year as the Cardinal (7-3, 6-2 Pac-10) have moved into The Associated Press rankings for the first time in eight years, at No. 14, and have qualified for their first bowl bid since 2001.

Stanford is playing its best football of late, beating then-No. 7 Oregon 51-42 last week and knocking off No. 11 USC 55-21 on Saturday to move into the thick of the Pac-10 race. The Cardinal can earn a Rose Bowl bid by beating California at home next week and getting losses by Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona down the stretch.

The Cardinal are looking to lock Harbaugh up with a long-term deal before NFL teams or other colleges come calling after him. Harbaugh figures to be a hot candidate for many open jobs despite his public proclamations that he wants to stay at Stanford.

With Harbaugh calling plays for an offense that features star running back Toby Gerhart and talented freshman quarterback Andrew Luck, Stanford is 10th in the nation in scoring offense at 36.1 points per game and 10th in rushing offense at 222.4 yards per game.

Before coming to Stanford, Harbaugh coached three seasons at San Diego, which was a non-scholarship Division I-AA school. Harbaugh previously was an assistant in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. He played 15 years in the NFL, leading the Indianapolis Colts to the 1995 AFC championship game.

Harbaugh is currently in the third year of a five-year contract.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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