That Stanford finished fourth in the final BCS standings, grabbing a lucrative automatic berth to the big-money bowls, is already a tremendous accomplishment. It's all the more tremendous, however, when you remember where the Cardinal were when Jim Harbaugh was hired: coming off of a 1-11, last-place season under Walt Harris, his two year reign of error coming on the heels of the equally disastrous three-year, 10-23 Buddy Teevens era. Stanford had gone five years without a winning record or bowl berth, and after years of poor recruiting, had become simply overmatched against Pac-10 competition.
It's taken Harbaugh only four seasons -- each better than the last -- to position the Cardinal as perennial Pac-10 contenders, becoming the hottest name in college coaching in the process. There's never been any doubt that Stanford would have to offer him a substantial raise to keep him in the fold. So, yep, it didn't take long for Stanford to offer him a substantial raise :
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," [Stanford athletic director] 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."Whether anyone else expects the same will depend on whether or not an NFL team makes an overture to Harbaugh, or, even more importantly, Michigan decides to dismiss Rich Rodriguez. With Wolverine athletic director Dave Brandon having stated he would not make a decision on Rodriguez until after the bowl, his alma mater may be placing Harbaugh in an awkward position; the 28 days between now and the Orange Bowl would be a long time for Bowlsby's new contract to sit on the table.
There wouldn't really be anything other than money -- money Michigan even might pay for him -- to keep Harbaugh from signing his new extension and departing for Ann Arbor anyway. But Harbaugh's reputation as a straight-shooter would seem to preclude him from that kind of bait-and-switch; if he signs the extension, he'll almost certainly be in Palo Alto next season. If he balks, it's going to be the clearest sign possible that he's going to want to hear what Brandon (or NFL Team X) has to say.
The ball, as the saying goes, is entirely in his court.