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Former Fargo Shanley athletic director is named 49ers general manager

Trent Baalke

Former Fargo Shanley High School athletic director Trent Baalke was promoted to general manager of the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday night.

Now, let the coaching search begin.

Baalke was formally hired as the team's new GM, though he had largely been considered the front-runner for about a week. He will take on more responsibility from his most recent post as vice president of player personnel, including taking the lead on finding a new coach.

With Baalke in place, the Niners are in position to make a serious run at Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, though it is believed the sides have already had contact.

Harbaugh, with plenty of suitors coming his way, returned to the Bay Area earlier Tuesday evening from a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in Miami. The Cardinal finished at 12-1.

Baalke had interviewed extensively on Saturday with team president Jed York, who has said he would let the general manager pick the team's next coach.

Baalke was Shanley's athletic director from 1997 to 1998. Prior to that, he had assistant coaching jobs at North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

"Trent has done an exceptional job in his role as vice president of player personnel and throughout his tenure with the 49ers," York said in a statement. "I have had the benefit of watching Trent closely in the recent months and have been very impressed with his knowledge and leadership. I am confident that Trent will find the 49ers an excellent head coach who will lead us to great success in the coming years."

Mike Singletary was fired after a 25-17 loss at St. Louis on Dec. 26 that eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention for an eighth straight year. That was after San Francisco was picked to win the NFC West following an unbeaten preseason.

York insisted last week he would conduct a national search for the GM position but ultimately decided to promote from within. The 49ers had been without a general manager since Scot McCloughan's abrupt departure last March in what York called a "mutual parting."