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Harbaugh, Luck: Stay or go?

12/28/2010

Stanford fans have two significantly bigger issues on their minds than the Discover Orange Bowl, which is saying something for a program that last played in a BCS bowl game after the 1999 season.

No. 1: Will coach Jim Harbaugh return to the Farm in 2011?

No. 2: Will QB Andrew Luck return to the Farm in 2011?

Most would say both will leave -- Harbaugh to Michigan or an NFL job; Luck to the NFL draft, where he's almost certain to be the top overall pick.

Of course, both could stay. Or one could stay and the other could go.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King has a report that might make Stanford fans hopeful about Luck, and it includes on-the-record comments from Harbaugh on the matter. Writes King:

I said to Harbaugh Sunday that I'd heard the Luck family (his dad, Oliver Luck, is a former NFL quarterback) was concerned with the fact that drafted players, because of the prospect of a protracted work stoppage, might not even see their playbook or start practice 'til Labor Day -- or later. If that's the case, why wouldn't Luck stay for his fourth year at Stanford and play, whether Harbaugh (who is rumored to be a candidate for both pro and college head-coaching jobs after turning around the Cardinal) is there to coach him or not?

"I don't think that's the correct logic,'' Harbaugh told me from his home in northern California. "But I do think it's more likely he'd come back. If I had to bet one way or the other, I'd bet he's coming back. He loves college. He loves the college life. He's such a good kid -- and so smart. He's got a 3.5 GPA in Architectural Engineering, and all along his plan has been to go to college for four years, get his degree, then figure out what to do with his life. This is a kid who has a plan. And he's a kid who's not the big-man-on-campus type. He just fits in.''

As for Harbaugh, it's clear that more than a few folks believe the San Francisco 49ers are going to make a run at him. This column from Tim Kawakami makes the case for Harbaugh and the 49ers. Writes Kawakami:

If Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh is on the 49ers’ list of prospective coaches, he should have a neon circle drawn around his name, and probably a few exclamation points, too.

He picked, recruited and coached quarterback Andrew Luck, already 10 times more polished than any quarterback the 49ers have had (and screwed up) for a half-decade.

Harbaugh runs a smart, powerful, pro-style offensive system. He is local. He is an NFL veteran. By most indications, he eventually wants to join his brother, John, in the NFL head-coaching fraternity.

And, a little over 30 years ago, the 49ers made out OK when they plucked an offensive-minded coach from Stanford — a guy named Bill Walsh — to save the day.

If there is a list, Harbaugh should be at the top of it.

Harbaugh figures to be on top of a number of lists, and probably not just the 49ers and Michigan. But Stanford fans are keeping their fingers crossed that Harbaugh's list is topped by the Cardinal.

And, just imagine, if Harbaugh and Luck came back in 2011? Hello preseason top-10 ranking.

Heck, hello dark horse national title contention.