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Slides aside, Tice endorsed for 2005

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice
will return for at least one more year, and nothing short of a
lucrative contract extension could make him happier.

Despite a second straight late-season slide, the Vikings on
Monday picked up Tice's $1 million option for 2005, ending much
speculation about the coach's future.

"I'm pleased," Tice said. "I want to remain the football
coach of this football team because we've come a long way in three
years."

Tice would have become a free agent Jan. 31 if the club failed
to exercise the option by Saturday -- one day before Minnesota's
regular-season finale at Washington.

Instead, the 45-year-old coach will have a chance to improve his
23-25 record and reverse his team's reputation for fading down the
stretch.

The Vikings raced to a 6-0 start in 2003, Tice's second full
season, but finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. They are headed
in a similar direction this year, having lost six of their past
nine games, but at 8-7 still have a good shot at a wild-card berth.

"Although our expectation of winning the division was not met,
we feel that the program Mike Tice has guided gives us the talent
base to have success today and in the future," owner Red McCombs
said in a statement Monday. "Our expectations are high for the
upcoming playoffs and for next year."

Widely known as a player's coach, Tice has absorbed much of the
blame for the Vikings' problems on and off the field, but the
team's stars have supported him publicly.

Despite a 33 percent raise from his reported $750,000 salary
this season, Tice will remain one of the NFL's lowest-paid head
coaches.

For now, Tice is focused on taking the Vikings back to the
playoffs.

"We just keep fighting the fight," Tice said. "Hopefully,
when it's all said and done, you've accomplished a whole bunch."