Stanford, Calif. — Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will get his chance to continue leading Stanford onto the national football scene, a goal he set when he arrived three years ago.
Harbaugh — a three-year starter at U-M under coach Bo Schembechler in the mid-1980s — finally made his long-awaited three-year contract extension official Sunday, when the announced a deal that keeps him under contract through 2014. The two sides were close to announcing the extension last year, but put it on hold because of the troubled economy.
Athletic director Bob Bowlsby confirmed the deal was completed Saturday, but the official announcement was put on hold until after Saturday’s Heisman Trophy ceremony. Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart finished second to Alabama’s Mark Ingram.
Harbaugh is finishing his third season at Stanford, guiding the 19th-ranked Cardinal (8-4) to their first bowl bid in eight years. They will face Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
“I am proud and thankful that Stanford and Bob Bowlsby have entrusted me with the opportunity to represent this great university as its football coach,” Harbaugh said. “I am committed to the Stanford model of striving for academic and athletic excellence. These past three years have convinced me that Stanford will win on the football field and continue to graduate young men who will be leaders in their chosen fields.”
Stanford ended the regular season with a 45-38 victory over Notre Dame, and rumors immediately began circulating that Harbaugh was headed to South Bend. He was also connected to the opening at Kansas.
“When you have somebody of his talent there will be other suitors to his services,” Bowlsby said. “That happened over the weekend, it’s going to happen again. It will happen frequently because he is one of the better coaches in the United States and he is getting better all the time.
Harbaugh has overseen a remarkable turnaround in his three years at Stanford. He arrived following the 2006 season, taking over a one-win team from Walt Harris that struggled to compete in the Pac-10.
But Harbaugh led the Cardinal to upsets of Southern Cal and rival California in his first season, then fell one win shy of a bowl bid in his second year before finally breaking through this season.
“There were some delays in announcing (the deal) for reasons the university had and over the last couple months that I had that extended it this long,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to write anything in blood on a stone tablet.”
Led by Gerhart and redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal had their best season in years on 2009. They beat Oregon and USC in consecutive weeks to move into the AP poll for the first time since 2001 and stayed in contention for a Pac-10 title until late in the season.
Gerhart is expected to enter the NFL draft, but Harbaugh will still have Luck and strong recruiting classes to build around.
“Jim and his staff have done an extraordinary job of revitalizing our football program,” Bowlsby said. “I am very excited to have Jim leading our efforts in the years ahead. Coach Harbaugh has energized our recruiting, improved competitiveness in all phases of the game and brought fun back to Stanford football.”