MIAMI — Jim Harbaugh’s blowout victory in the Orange Bowl made a big impression on Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
Harbaugh was to meet Thursday with Ross in the San Francisco area about the Dolphins’ coaching job, two people with knowledge of the situation said. Both spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the meeting was to remain confidential.
Ross flew to California for the visit even while Tony Sparano remained Miami’s coach. A late-season collapse by the Dolphins left Sparano’s job in jeopardy.
ESPN was first to report Harbaugh’s meeting with Ross. Harbaugh met Wednesday with the San Francisco 49ers about their coaching vacancy and may consider other suitors as well.
Harbaugh returned Tuesday to the Bay Area following Stanford’s 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in the stadium Ross owns. Ross, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and general manager Jeff Ireland were on the Stanford sideline before the game.
Harbaugh was a star quarterback at Michigan, which also has a coaching vacancy. But Wolverines athletic director Dave Brandon has said he expects Harbaugh to take an NFL job.
Ross is also a Michigan graduate and a major contributor to the university, where the school of business carries his name.
Landing Harbaugh will require a significant financial commitment. New Denver Broncos chief football executive John Elway has said he hopes to interview Harbaugh for their job, and new 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is looking for the coach to replace Mike Singletary, who was fired.
Harbaugh is 58-27 overall as a college coach and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He took over a 1-11 team when he was hired in December 2006 and quickly transformed the program. The Cardinal set a school record for victories this season by going 12-1.
Harbaugh played 15 seasons in the NFL for the Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. He also has NFL coaching experience — he was the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach in 2002-03, then spent three seasons as head coach at the University of San Diego.
Sparano has a year left on his contract, but a late-season collapse may have sealed his fate. For the second year in a row, the Dolphins lost their final three games to finish 7-9, and they endured a 38-7 drubbing at New England on Sunday.
The Dolphins also lost at home in December to three sub-.500 teams. Their 1-7 home record matched the worst in franchise history.
Ross said before the season he expected the Dolphins to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, for the eighth time in nine years they failed to reach the playoffs .
Sparano led Miami to that lone postseason berth in 2008. The Dolphins’ fifth coach since 2004, he has a three-year record of 25-23.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.