After losing Jim Harbaugh to the NFL on Friday, Stanford has the enviable task of finding a new head coach. It's enviable because for the first time in almost 40 years,* an open Stanford head coaching position is actually desirable on account of the team coming off a major bowl victory. Buoyed with this success, Stanford is able to reach out to big names early in the process, and as Yahoo! Sports reports, Stanford has contacted Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.
Now, hiring a Boise State head coach isn't necessarily a guarantor of future success; look at what happened to Dan Hawkins down at Colorado , after all. Nonetheless, this report would seem to indicate that Chris Petersen is Stanford's first choice, and there's nothing athletic directors like to do more at hiring announcements than stand up there and proclaim that they "got their guy."
Of course, it also helps that Andrew Luck is returning for his junior season, which should definitely ease the new coach's transition to Palo Alto. One could argue that this decision by Luck will be a bigger factor than the head coaching hire for Stanford's short-term success, in fact.
Now, if Stanford can't bring in Petersen or any other "big" name for whatever reason, fans shouldn't be quick to be disappointed. As the San Francisco Chronicle reminds, Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby has made two football hires at the I-A level: Kirk Ferentz at Iowa after the 1998 season, and Harbaugh at Stanford in late 2006. Neither coach had any I-A head coaching experience; Ferentz was 12-21 in three years with the Maine Black Bears, while Harbaugh was 29-6 at San Diego (a school in the non-scholarship I-AA Pioneer League). Both hires have, to say the least, succeeded.
*In 1971, John Ralston led Stanford to its second consecutive Rose Bowl (a 13-12 win over then-undefeated Michigan , incidentally), then jumped to the NFL to coach the Denver Broncos. His successor -- Jack Christiansen -- didn't fare exceptionally well, going 30-22 in five seasons and never reaching a bowl before being fired, but he at least had a winning record in every season and paved the way for legendary coach Bill Walsh to take over. So if history repeats itself, it's not as if disaster lurks for the Cardinal in the coming years. Disappointment, yes, but not disaster.