Stanford University will be looking for a new head football coach.
Jim Harbaugh was introduced as the San Francisco 49ers head coach Friday in a press conference at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Harbaugh leaves Stanford after leading the Cardinal to its best season in school history. The Palo Alto High grad reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $25 million. He had a 29-21 record in his four years on The Farm, improving its win total every season.
"This is the perfect competitive situation for me and the rest of the San Francisco organization to be part of a team with a chance to win," Harbaugh said. "I can't wait to meet those guys, those strong men, those leaders, those professionals and start building a team."
Harbaugh met with Stanford officials Thursday but could not reach an agreement. He had met with the 49ers on Wednesday. There were rumors he also met with the Miami Dolphins, which decided to retain its current coach.
"Jim Harbaugh has done an outstanding job of advancing the football program at Stanford University and I am grateful for all of his tremendous work," Stanford Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby said. "Coach Harbaugh has led the program with integrity, vision, enthusiasm and energy and his teams have played with precision and exceptional passion."
Harbaugh's leap to the 49ers comes a day after Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck officially announced his decision to remain in school for another year.
"We are grateful to Jim Harbaugh for re-energizing the Stanford football program over the past four years,' said Stanford President John Hennessy. "He helped build momentum that we are confident will continue into the future. We made Jim the best offer we could commensurate with our role as a university. We wish him the best of luck and look forward to his continuing contributions to football in the Bay Area."
Harbaugh, who also coached San Diego to a pair of Division III national titles before coming to Stanford, spent a lot of time with players and coaches in the NFL (his older brother John coaches the Baltimore Ravens) even as he coached at Stanford. It was apparent, though never specified, that he wanted a chance to coach in the pros.
"I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins right now," Harbaugh said. "I accept this competitive challenge willingly."
Harbaugh assumes control of an organization that has won five Super Bowls, but has fallen on difficult times. San Francisco has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons.
The 49ers finished 6-10 this year and remained a playoff contender in the NFC West until the second-to-last week. The 49ers last recorded a winning season in their last trip to the playoffs in 2002.
San Francisco's Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, becomes a free agent this year and Harbaugh's second order of business may be in finding a quarterback. His first will be assembling a coaching staff.
Harbaugh brought several former NFL coaches into the fold at Stanford and may try to coax a few of them back to the pros.
Harbaugh follows in the footsteps of the late Bill Walsh, who made the leap from Stanford to the 49ers before returning to coach the Cardinal and, later, serving as a special assistant to the athletic director.
Stanford's search for a coach may not have to be a lengthy one, with many candidates available on the current staff. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, credited with for the Cardinal defensive turnaround, offensive coordinator David Shaw, wide receivers coach Pep Hamilton, secondary coach Derek Mason, special teams coordinator Brian Pollan and associate head coach Greg Roman all have NFL coaching experience.
Roman, for one, has been interviewed for recent head coaching positions.
Harbaugh becomes the 20th member of Stanford's coaching fraternity (head coaches and assistants) to land a head coaching position in the NFL and the sixth to lead the 49ers, joining Jack Christiansen (1963-67), Monte Clark (1976), Mike Nolan (2005-08), George Seifert (1989-96) and Bill Walsh (1979-88). Frankie Albert, who quarterbacked Stanford's "Wow Boys" to a 10-0 record in 1940, served as head coach of the 49ers from 1956-58.
As for keeping Stanford's faithful happy, a good selection to replace Harbaugh would be Chris Petersen of Boise State. He recently won the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award after leading the Broncos to a 12-1 record following a 26-3 win over Utah in the MAACO Bowl.
Petersen has averaged 12 wins in his five seasons at Boise State, including two undefeated campaigns. The Broncos, ranked No. 10 nationally but an early favorite for the national championship game, have won four Western Athletic Conference championships under Petersen.
Petersen is considered one of the more innovative and offensive-minded coaches in the nation. His standout junior quarterback Kellen Moore threw for 3,845 yards and 35 touchdowns this season and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
At Stanford, Petersen could coach next season's odds-on-favorite for the award -- Andrew Luck.