Harbaugh, Stanford near extension

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford Cardinal football coach Jim Harbaugh is close to completing a contract extension with the school.

Athletic director Bob Bowlsby said Sunday in an e-mail that a formal announcement of a new deal was expected to come shortly. The two sides were close to announcing an extension after last season but talks were put on hold in February because of the poor economy.

Harbaugh has done an impressive rebuilding job at Stanford since taking over a one-win team from Walt Harris after the 2006 season. The Cardinal won four games in Harbaugh's first season, including big wins over Southern California and California.

Stanford went 5-7 last year, falling one win shy of a possible bowl bid. The turnaround was completed this year as the Cardinal (7-3, 6-2 Pac-10) have moved into The Associated Press rankings for the first time in eight years, at No. 14, and have qualified for their first bowl bid since 2001.

Stanford is playing its best football of late, beating then-No. 7 Oregon (No. 13 BCS, No. 11 AP) 51-42 last week and knocking off USC (No. 9 BCS, No. 11 AP) 55-21 on Saturday to move into the thick of the Pac-10 race.

"I didn't expect that [final score]," Harbaugh said after the game. "I expected if the team played well and executed, I felt good we could win. I'm really proud of the players. They really stepped up today. I was put-up or shut-up time for Stanford football, and our guys came out focused and loose and did what we had to do to win."

The Cardinal can earn a Rose Bowl bid by beating California at home next week and getting losses by Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona down the stretch.

Toby Gerhart rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns, Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes and Stanford used a 27-point fourth quarter to hand the Trojans their worst loss since a 51-0 defeat at home against Notre Dame in 1966.

"I think we surprised them a little bit," Gerhart said. "They're USC, and they've been the premier Pac-10 team and an elite team in college football. We've been an underdog program, a program on the rise. To come out and make a statement today about where we are says great things about this program."

With Harbaugh calling plays for an offense that features Gerhart and Luck, Stanford is 10th in the nation in scoring offense at 36.1 points per game and 10th in rushing offense at 222.4 yards per game.

The Cardinal are looking to lock Harbaugh up with a long-term deal before NFL teams or other colleges come calling after him. Harbaugh figures to be a hot candidate for many open jobs despite his public proclamations that he wants to stay at Stanford.

Before coming to Stanford, Harbaugh coached three seasons at San Diego, which was a non-scholarship Division I-AA school. Harbaugh previously was an assistant in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. He played 15 years in the NFL, leading the Indianapolis Colts to the 1995 AFC championship game.

Harbaugh is currently in the third year of a five-year contract.