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Sparano Accepts 2-Year Contract Extension; Ross Admits Mistake

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MIAMI (CBS4)- It’s official! Tony Sparano has accepted a two-year contract extension with the Miami Dolphins through 2013.

The deal was announced by owner Stephen Ross Saturday during a 35-minute news conference. Prior to the conference, it was predicted that Ross would keep Sparano and extend his contract.


The Dolphins scheduled a late-afternoon news conference Friday to discuss the retention of Sparano, but the session was postponed 20 minutes before the scheduled start. Nearly two hours later, the Dolphins rescheduled the session for Saturday.

At the conference, Ross said he made mistakes in the way he dealt with the situation.

But Ross, who said he never offered a contract to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on Thursday, said he still should have advised Sparano of his plans to meet with the coach in California. That never happened, leading to uncertainty for Sparano.

“Not until after I read the newspapers did I realize the anguish I’d put Tony through,” Ross said. “I’m not familiar with going through this process, but I never thought it would be national news.

“I was a little naive. Looking back, I can tell you I shouldn’t be talking to any coaches, seeking a replacement, until I’ve decided that I needed to make a change.”

During the meeting, Ross said he began to realize the best fit was not Harbaugh — but instead Sparano.

“[Harbaugh] is an outstanding young man, and I think he’ll be a great NFL head coach,” Ross said. “But when you start hearing him speak, and talking about his plans and how he’d change a team, and when you listen to Tony, knowing the organization we have with the building blocks in place, sometimes you start to think the grass is greener.But that isn’t necessarily the case.

“You don’t just make change for the sake of change.”

On Friday, Ross arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 2 a.m. from his cross-county trip.

The move came after Ross saw his home team got demolished by the New England Patriots. From there, speculations came out that Ross began to reach out to other coaches to gauge their interest in the Dolphins job.

General Manager Jeff Ireland agreed that the matter could have been handled better.

Sparano said he endured a difficult week but was glad to receive an extension and ready to move on.

107699574 Sparano Accepts 2 Year Contract Extension; Ross Admits Mistake

In the days leading up to the announcement, Ross, picture above, and his advisor Carl Peterson were spotted making small-talk with Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines before the Orange Bowl.

At that point, speculation surrounding the future of Sparano and the potential hiring of a new head coach exploded.
Ross, Ireland, and Peterson would then board a jet late Wednesday night and head for California to interview Harbaugh for the position that Sparano still held. Sparano was simply left hanging in the wind while Ross tried to find a candidate more to his liking.

Thursday afternoon, stories began to emerge that Ross was willing to pay upwards of $7 million to get Harbaugh to South Beach. But holes began to emerge in the story when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck decided to stay in school for another season. The timing of the story coming out, while Ross was in town interviewing Harbaugh, seemed suspicious.

By Thursday night and early Friday morning, Ross and company had boarded a plane headed back for Miami without Harbaugh with them. This was accompanied by an ESPN report that said Sparano would indeed be back for another season, a fact that ESPN’s Adam Schefter began to report Thursday afternoon.

The incident left fans wondering about the current state of the team and it also opened a rift with some players and made the Dolphins owner look like an amateur.

At noon Saturday, Ross will try to clear the air and announce the contract extension for Sparano.

According to team sources, the Dolphins coach will stay as the coach — and may even get a positive adjustment to his paycheck to help make up for the embarrassment of the team owner courting other coaches while Sparano is in his current post.

Harbaugh ended up accepting a job with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday.

Ross previously opened discussions with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, but Cowher was not interested in joining the Dolphins.

Ross, Sparano and Ireland were at the team’s facility for much of the day Friday, attempting to sort through ways to get everyone back to being one happy family, the herald reported.

At 3:20 p.m., the Dolphins announced plans for a 4:45 p.m. roundtable at which time the team would announce its decision to retain Sparano as head coach, team sources say, while also attempting to explain the week-long process that led to the outcome.

But 20 minutes before the public appearances were scheduled to commence, the Dolphins contacted the media to say the conference will be postponed indefinitely before later announcing it had been moved to noon Saturday.
(© MMX CBS Television Stations. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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