Breaking Down the Buzz: Stanford

By Chip Patterson | College Writer

David Shaw is flattered by annual NFL interest, but has no plans to leave Stanford anytime soon.  (USATSI)
David Shaw is flattered by annual NFL interest, but has no plans to leave Stanford anytime soon. (USATSI)

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Stanford Cardinal .

What they're talking about is … Stanford recruiting. Specifically, whether or not Stanford has reached a point where fans can expect elite recruiting classes on an annual basis. A discussion topic on TheCARDBoard.org broke out last weekend asking if Stanford has "reached the recruiting tipping point."

There is an expected level of excitement after David Shaw's 20-player 2014 class ranked No. 13 nationally and No. 2 in the Pac-12, and fans are wondering if the Cardinal are finally eye-to-eye with traditional West Coast powers like USC on the recruiting trail. Recruiting at a prestigious academic institution like Stanford comes with extra challenges, but Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw have helped re-write the script for what is now one of the most unique sales pitches in college football.

What they're saying is … We can't take the coaches for granted. I'll begin by posting an excerpt from the orignal question posed on the board. It's an interesting discussion topic, particularly because David Shaw might be one of the only coaches in America that can say he is happy where he is and have everyone believe it.

"Has Stanford's perceived value now become so high that we can now expect Stanford to land a healthy haul of very good talent in each class just because Stanford is Stanford? And has Stanford reached the point where a Stanford offer puts fear into fans of programs who covet Stanford-offered recruits?"

"No amount of success in football--several national championships in a row--would create the same kind of recruiting power it would at factories like SC, given the unique admissions requirements here. More football success can't attract better recruits beyond a certain point, since there is already a very limited pool who can make it through admissions, and we may be coming close to maximizing our attraction within that pool."

"There are very, very few potential coaches who could possibly be better at making the scholar/athlete case than David Shaw--an alum of the program himself, still youthful, articulate. And more important than all those symbols is the fact that he really believes in the academic mission of the university. Sounding sincere is a lot easier when you actually are sincere."

"I don't think we are in a position where the coaches can say 'Stanford recruits itself,' then just sit back and pick among the multitudes of elite players who are lining up to sign an LOI...I think Stanford's success still is fragile. We saw the program drop off the cliff not so long ago. I don't think we are at a point where it couldn't happen again. We need the right coaches, the right work ethic, the right administrative support, and the right players to keep this thing going."

"Enjoy this ride because all it would take is a lazy recruiter or a dean of admissions that doesn't get athletics or a couple of losing seasons, and all the work Harbaugh and Shaw have put into get us into a top recruiting destination will be lost."

What we're saying is…Stanford fans SHOULD be thankful for David Shaw. Stanford is in a great position right now. After four straight BCS bowl games and back-to-back conference titles, the Cardinal have become the team to beat in the Pac-12. But it is hard to imagine Stanford sustaining that level of success without David Shaw leading the program. Shaw is an NFL caliber coach that uses perceived recruiting disadvantages like difficult admission standards to his advantage. The Cardinal are not on the level of USC, Texas or Alabama when it comes to recruiting, but I'd argue that is not the goal of this Shaw-led program.

It is Shaw's ability to communicate and lead that helps the Cardinal sign not only top prospects, but the right top prospects. Cardinal commits rarely transfer after a few years because of playing time issues; in many of them choose to redshirt. Because Shaw is a Stanford alum, it furthers the idea that the current state of the program is also the Stanford brand. But without him leading the way, it would be very difficult to hold the Cardinal to the same level of excellence on and off the field.

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