The diagram David Shaw has for the future of Stanford football is on a simple sheet of paper resting on the coach’s desk.
The itinerary for this week: Wednesday at Palo Alto High School. Thursday in Ohio. Friday in New Jersey and Saturday at the Virginia state championship game. On Tuesday, assistants hit Northern California, Southern California, Houston, Louisiana and Ohio. Three of those coaches traveled to different places Wednesday.
“We actually see less people than everybody else,” Shaw said. “We just have to go to more places.”
As improbable as it once seemed, Shaw is finding ways to sustain success at a place better known for producing future world leaders and venture capitalists than Heisman Trophy finalists and NFL draft picks.
After last Friday’s 27-24 victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game sealed Stanford’s first Rose Bowl berth since the 1999 season, there was no time to rest either. Shaw and his staff have something to sell recruits that even some of college football’s most storied programs can only imagine: three straight BCS bowls.
Only Oregon and Wisconsin, whom the eighth-ranked Cardinal (11-2) will face in Pasadena on Jan. 1, can match that active streak. Stanford also is the only school to be ranked in the Top 10 of The Associated Press poll and U.S. News & World Report’s academic rankings the past three years, something Shaw and his coaches have used to separate themselves on the recruiting trail.
“Are we becoming a football powerhouse? They still don’t want to call us a football powerhouse,” said Shaw, who has won Pac-12 Coach of the Year in each of his first two seasons. “But how many teams have gone to three BCS bowls, how many teams have lost five games in three years?”
If this year proved anything, it’s that Stanford’s success no longer seems to be a passing thing.
The Cardinal weathered the loss of Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart after the 2009 season. Jim Harbaugh accepted the 49ers job after the 2010 season. And Andrew Luck left to become the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts after the 2011 season.
Stanford has still won at least 11 games each of the past three years. The program had won 10 games only three times before (1992, 1940 and 1926), and yet Shaw is still fighting the perception that the prestigious academics university is miscast among college football heavyweights.
“I guarantee it’s not done. I guarantee,” Shaw said. “I told the guys before, ‘This needs to be done over a long period of time before we even think about changing the national conscience.’ That’s just the fact. There is no mountain top. We haven’t reached a mountain top and said, ‘OK. Now everybody’s going to get it.’ It’s not going to happen. Not yet.”