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Pete Carroll backs rival Jim Harbaugh

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- If Jim Harbaugh needs a reference for his next job, that is, if he is indeed on his way out as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he has one in the most unlikely of places.

Longtime coaching rival Pete Carroll sang praises for the embattled Harbaugh in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday.

"I've never seen him not be a really good coach," said Carroll, as his Seattle Seahawks prepare to play host to the Niners on Sunday. "He's a fantastic football coach. I've watched him do all the stuff he did at Stanford and turned that program around. What he's done at the Niners, I know that he's a great football coach.

"Not everybody likes everybody or gets along with everybody but sometimes you don't see the magic that guys have. I think he's a fantastic football coach; he's proven that. There's no question about that."

Carroll said he's known of Harbaugh's coaching style since the latter recruited his son to play for him at the University of San Diego.

The two became adversaries when Harbaugh went to Stanford in 2007 and Carroll was already established with three national championships at USC. But Harbaugh, fresh off three seasons at the University of San Diego, took two of three from Carroll's Trojans, including a stunning 24-23 upset in 2007, when No. 2 USC was favored by 41 points.

In 2009, Stanford scored 27 fourth-quarter points in a 55-21 blowout victory, prompting the infamous, "What's your deal?" exchange at midfield following the game.

Carroll was in Seattle the following year and Harbaugh moved from Palo Alto to the 49ers in 2011. In the NFL, the two have split eight meetings, including last January's NFC title game won by the Seahawks.

So Carroll, with a victory Sunday in Seattle, can tie the all-time coaching series between the two at 6-6.

"He's a stud; he ain't going to waver," Carroll said of Harbaugh. "He's going to keep battling and do what he does. He's a great competitor. Always has been. That's why they're so dangerous coming in -- his leadership, his toughness about the way he runs his program. ... I have tremendous respect for him.

"All the other stuff you guys have always thought was going on (between us), there ain't much to it. This is two football guys going at it, two guys that love to compete and battle and there's nobody I'd rather play. I love playing against him and that's the way it's been since the beginning."

Then what about all the noise that Harbaugh is out in Santa Clara?

"I'm not commenting on that," Carroll said. "It's football season. You guys talk about that garbage. Not me."