Stanford offers Jim Harbaugh better deal

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has made a pre-emptive offer to sweeten Jim Harbaugh's contract before the coach even gets offered other jobs.

"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future."

Bowlsby spoke Sunday after the fifth-ranked Cardinal (11-1) accepted a bid to play in the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech on Jan. 3, a remarkable turnaround from the 1-11 team Harbaugh took over four years ago.

Harbaugh quickly made the Cardinal competitive, winning four games his first year and five the following season before getting them to a bowl with an eight-win season in 2009.

Despite losing Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart to the NFL, Harbaugh did even better this season. The Cardinal set a school record for wins, with the only loss being a 52-31 defeat at No. 2 Oregon on Oct. 2.

"That's why this program has progressed, because guys have bought into what he's saying and what he was preaching," defensive lineman Sione Fua said. "And now we're here four years later going to a BCS game."

Harbaugh's name has been mentioned as a possible NFL coach or for higher-profile college jobs, including his alma mater of Michigan if the Wolverines decide to fire Rich Rodriguez.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has said he will not make a decision on Rodriguez until after the Wolverines play in their bowl game Jan. 1.

"When you have high quality people you're going to have others coming after him," Bowlsby said. "Whether it's the NFL or another university, we have to be prepared to make pre-emptive offers and do the things it takes to put tools in place that make Jim or any other coach want to stay here. In the case of a football coach, those things tend to be a little more expensive than with some of our other coaches."

Harbaugh has said he will not talk about other jobs and is happy at Stanford.