Sure, Jim Harbaugh—who led Stanford to a 12-1 record—left for the San Francisco ’49ers. But there is still joy in Mudville (a.k.a. the Farm), thanks to new head football coach David Shaw, ’94. In January, athletic director Bob Bowlsby announced that the offensive coordinator would take over the top job. Though Shaw isn’t yet a household name, he has worked with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. And as a Stanford student, he was a wide receiver. Days before the April 9 annual Cardinal & White Spring Game, the sociology major talks about his new job, his vision and his thoughts (all positive!) about Stanford. Excerpts:
How was it being picked for the job?
Mr. Bowlsby did a search. I feel very fortunate that he thought I was the right guy for the job. I was extremely pleased that he did pick me, and I don’t want to interview for another head coaching job. This is the place I want to be.
For the rest of your life?
How is it to have Andrew Luck back again?
It’s been great for us, of course, because he’s a very good football player, and he’s a great person to be around. Andrew has taken it on himself to really continue to push himself. If the best player on a team can push himself, then everyone can push himself. He does a great job setting the tempo for practice.
What’s it like to take over for Harbaugh?
Every team is going to be different every year. You’ve got guys coming and guys leaving. The challenge is playing to our strengths.
So what are our big strengths?
We want to continue to have a physical, running game. We’ve got a quarterback who is capable of making us all better. [We can] count on that quarterback to be efficient, manage the team, and periodically make big plays.
Your dad, Willie Shaw, was a football coach. Is the game in your blood?
I truly enjoy the game of football. I enjoyed playing it. I enjoyed being around it in my youth. I was one of those kids running around while my dad was coaching, getting in the way. It was only natural to me to stay in the coaching world.
Does your dad give you pointers?
He’s around periodically. He’s probably seen four or five practices. He’s a great resource for me. He coached at every level, from junior high to high school to college [including two coaching stints at Stanford, the last time from 1989-1991 as defensive coordinator] to the NFL [for the Detroit Lions]. He’s been around a lot of great coaches. He’s had a great career.
So when was the official first day of spring training?
We started in February. We get seven practices in before spring break. Then we do eight practices after spring break.
How do you efficiently run practices?
The rule is it’s got to be less than three hours. We’re typically two hours and 15 or 20 minutes at the most. We try to hit the field running. We go hard while we’re out there.
How many days a week do you practice in the spring?
We try to go about every other day.
How much more do you practice in the fall?
Sundays are players’ day off. We kind of have a little workout on monday, but it's not a very difficult practice. It's just to get loose. Really Tuesday through Thursday are the days.
Are these practices still just just two hours and 15 minutes?
Just about that. Tuesday’s practice will be longer than Thursday’s practice.
How big a role do academics play in the relatively short practices?
We definitely know that graduation is No. 1 around here. We're not going to do anything that can inhibit these guys from getting a degree. We will adjust practice schedules, we will adjust our meeting times to make sure that when they're in school, they're in school, and when they're in football, they're in football.
Isn’t Stanford’s graduation rate for athletes very high?
For a while, we've been pretty much No. 1 in the nation [among major college football teams]. We're in the top couple, if not No. 1.
What about your kids? Are they playing football?
They're not playing now. I have a 7-year-old [daughter Keegan], a 6-year-old [son Carter], and a 1-year-old [son Gavin].
Will the boys play football?
My oldest son, most likely. He's a full-contact young man.
Does he like to be out with you?
He loves to come out and watch practice. He has a chance to run around after practice and throw balls with the guys. He loves doing that.
Is your wife, Kori, a Stanford grad?
She's an MIT grad. And she’s got a master’s from Berkeley in mechanical engineering. She works for a start-up company.
What are your ideas for boosting attendance at games?
From the football side, we just need to keep putting a consistent good product on the field, put something on the field that people want to come watch. We'll let the rest of it take care of itself. There have been good signs of us leaning toward getting more people in our stands.
Will anything look different on the field this fall?
One thing is for sure is if you don't change at least a little bit, you fall behind. We're exploring new things. We have a general philosophy that we believe in whole heartedly. But we need to have new wrinkles and have added spice here and there to our offense and our defense.
How was recruiting after the announcement Harbaugh was leaving?
The Stanford young men stand out as football players [and] as students with their character. We identified the right kids who love this place for what it is. We were able to keep a lot of those recruits.
Famous players such as John Elway, ’83, and Jim Plunkett, ’71, appeared on the Stanford sideline at the Orange Bowl. What’s the role of alumni?
We'll continue to invite a lot of our alumni—football alumni and general school alumni. They're a big part of what Stanford is about—to be a success at Stanford and to have success beyond Stanford. A lot of those people are great living examples.
What do you most want alumni to know?
They need to know that we can do things our way, the Stanford way, and still compete with anybody in the nation. We can recruit students with high GPAs who are good football players, in keeping with the Stanford philosophy. We think we can compete at the highest level in anything we do with anybody.
How do you feel about the job?
I feel very fortunate. I feel prepared. I think Mr. Bowlsby was satisfied that I understood the job that I was taking and understood what needed to be done and had vision. We can't keep stagnant. We’ve got to keep pushing. Our general philosophy is competing hard, competing with anybody who shows up, and doing things the Stanford way—with passion, energy, and focus. That helps set Stanford apart.
Do you still work out with the guys?
Not as much as I should!
What is the very best thing about Stanford?
That's an unfair question! How do you choose?! I would go beyond the weather, I would go beyond the professors, I would go beyond the great support that we have from our donors and our athletic department. The best thing about Stanford is the kids. The students at Stanford are bright, they’re motivated, they’re fun to be around. They do challenge us as much as we challenge them. To be directing them, leading them and pushing them to those goals and getting the most out of them is extremely rewarding.
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