National Football League
Sources: Dolphins retain Sparano
National Football League

Sources: Dolphins retain Sparano

Published Jan. 6, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

After meeting with Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has decided to forgo that route and retain Tony Sparano, has learned.

It is believed that Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland continued to push Ross to retain Sparano, but that Ross insisted upon exploring the Stanford head coach.

Ross courted Harbaugh in a meeting in the San Francisco area on Wednesday, a day after he met with the San Francisco 49ers about their head coaching vacancy, two other people with knowledge of the situation said.

But after the meeting, Harbaugh was still considering staying at Stanford, one person said.


Harbaugh also met Thursday with the president of the university and the provost. The school made an amended offer to the coach with enhancements from an offer presented in early December.

A late-season collapse by the Dolphins put Sparano's job in jeopardy. He has a year left on his contract and was at work at the team's complex in Davie, while Ross was on the other side of the country courting Harbaugh.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck may have helped the Cardinal's chances of keeping Harbaugh by deciding to stay to get his degree instead of cashing in on the chance to be the likely No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft. Luck, a sophomore, announced his decision Thursday.

Harbaugh returned Tuesday to the Bay Area following Stanford's 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in the stadium Ross owns in Miami. Ross, Ireland and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee were on the Stanford sideline before the game.

Ross flew to the Bay Area late Wednesday and departed California for Florida 24 hours later without a new coach. Harbaugh is the only candidate Miami is known to have interviewed.

Ross said before the season he expected the Dolphins to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, for the eighth time in nine years they failed to reach the playoffs, losing their final three games to finish 7-9.

The Dolphins endured a 38-7 drubbing at New England on Sunday and lost at home in December to three sub-.500 teams. Their 1-7 home record matched the worst in franchise history.

Sparano led Miami to the AFC East title in 2008, his first year as an NFL coach. He has a three-year record of 25-23 with the Dolphins, who haven't won a playoff game since 2000 and haven't reached the Super Bowl since 1984.

New Denver Broncos chief football executive John Elway has said he hopes to interview Harbaugh for their job, and new 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is looking for the coach to replace Mike Singletary, who was fired.

Harbaugh is 58-27 overall as a college coach and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He took over a 1-11 team when he was hired in December 2006 and quickly transformed the program. The Cardinal set a school record for victories this season by going 12-1.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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