- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

MIAMI (AP) - The Stanford faithful in the stands started the requisite “One more year” chant late in the fourth quarter.

They may have been directing those words at quarterback Andrew Luck.

More than likely, they were hoping Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh heard their cries.

If this was the end, as many expect, for Harbaugh’s tenure as coach at Stanford, then it certainly was a happy farewell. His fifth-ranked Cardinal rolled past Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl on Monday night _ almost certainly ensuring Stanford’s first top-5 finish in The Associated Press rankings since 1940.

And now, Harbaugh has no shortage of options.

He could be a candidate at Michigan, if the Wolverines dismiss Rich Rodriguez. The San Francisco 49ers may come calling as well, as could the Denver Broncos _ whose incoming football czar, former Stanford standout John Elway, was on the Cardinal sideline as an honorary captain Monday night.

Elway shook hands in the final minutes with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who watched the Cardinal women’s basketball team end Connecticut’s 90-game winning streak last week.

On Monday, she might have seen the end of the Harbaugh era.

“I just talk about the job that I have and none others, and that’s the way I’ve always handled it in the past, and it’s worked well,” Harbaugh said Sunday in his final media availability before the game. “The way I handle it now and in the future _ just focus and concentrate on the task at hand.”

The task at hand now is his future.

Harbaugh is 58-27 as a college coach, 29-21 at Stanford. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 the next, then showed plenty of promise at 8-5 in 2009.

This year, it all came together. Stanford finished 12-1, a school record for wins, and the lure of a new challenge may be too difficult for Harbaugh to ignore.

When the final whistle sounded Monday night, Harbaugh was hoisted onto two players’ shoulders as he thrust an arm high in the air.

Time will tell if it was a goodbye wave.

Harbaugh tossed some oranges at players and well-wishers during the on-field celebration, just before the Cardinal were presented with the Orange Bowl trophy.

The Cardinal were 1-11 before Harbaugh arrived. Four years later, they’re Orange Bowl champions.

“I just want to say thanks to all the players and coaches … everybody involved with Stanford football,” Harbaugh said. “We could not have done it without you. All the credit goes to these players.”

And even though Harbaugh knew there was widespread speculation about his future going into this game _ and, really, for months beforehand _ he wasn’t going to engage in any on-field discussion over what might be looming.

Talk about his players, he insisted.

“It’s all about them,” Harbaugh said.

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