Stanford letter to Army fans

Two of the most prestigious universities in America will meet on the gridiron on Saturday in California. is fortunate to have Mark DeVaughn of share some facts and history of Stanford University and its football program in a letter to Army fans.

Dear Army Fans,

Welcome to “The Peninsula,” as the locals call it, and to the crowded sports scene that is the San Francisco Bay Area. As it is throughout the Pac-12, college football must fight the mighty NFL here for attention. Cardinal fans also maintain their allegiance in a climate where the rival Cal Bears enjoy a far greater alumni presence. It hasn’t been easy through the years (just seven winning seasons from 1981 to 2008), but the folks in red finally have a legitimate winner. Stanford Stadium has never been a better place to watch a game.

And we’re glad to have you here.

I speak for many Stanford fans when I say I appreciate the contributions Army has made to the college game. It’s impossible talk about the history of college football without mentioning Red Blaik, Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. Personally, I have vivid memories watching guys like Doug Black, Rob Healy and Ronnie McAda star in The Army-Navy Game. Your team went to three bowl games in the ’80s…three times as many as Stanford did. Here’s to the Black Knights reclaiming at least some of their former glory.

We hope you brought your shorts and sunglasses. Summer remains at full strength right now in Northern California, and we apologize in advance for the dearth of fall colors. What we lack in falling leaves we make up for in fragrant eucalyptus. West Point is stunning and beautiful, but so too is the Florentine-inspired architecture of the Stanford campus. The place is a huge (8,180 acres), so it’s important to “pick your spots.”

I recommend a stroll down Palm Drive to “The Oval” and the Memorial Church. Grab a Peet’s coffee across the street from Stanford Stadium at Town & Country Shopping Center. For lunch (or breakfast), Hobee’s – right next door to Peet’s – offers tasty “farm-to-fork” choices at reasonable prices. And while it’s not exactly health food, both The Oasis and The Dutch Goose have been serving up burgers and pitchers of beer to Stanford students and fans in nearby Menlo Park for generations. No weekend for a visiting fan is complete without a trip to “The O” or “The Goose.”

We anticipate you having a few questions about the school and the team. Here are a few I expect you to ask at some point.

Why are they called “the Cardinal?”
That’s “Cardinal” as in the shade of red, not the bird. Stanford used to be known as the Indians until 1972, when the school’s Native Americans voiced their dissent. It then became “Cardinals” before being shortened to its current form in 1981.

What’s up with that mascot?
“The Tree” is actually the Stanford Band’s mascot. Don’t take it seriously. It’s a parody, meant to be as thrown together as it looks. The real tree around here is El Palo Alto, a centuries-old redwood named by Spanish explorers and the inspiration for the city that bears its name.

What’s up with that band?
The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB ) doesn’t actually march. It’s technically a “scatter” band. And despite a reputation for poor taste (making fun of the Irish Potato Famine, Mormon polygamy, unemployed Oregon loggers), it does have its qualities. Its arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner, where a lone trumpet plays the first few lines, was first played as a tribute to John F. Kennedy after his assassination.

This stadium looks brand new. What happened to the last one?
The old Stanford Stadium – cavernous, quiet and full of metal bleachers – was renovated after the 2005 season. The 85,000-capacity canyon became a much more viewer-friendly venue of 50,000 seats. Stanford lost to Navy in the first game at the newly renovated stadium. The Cardinal would lose 11 of its first 12 games there, making its recent 18-game home winning streak all the more impressive.

Did Stanford football just come out of nowhere?
Kind of. Producing quality quarterbacks and innovative coaches didn’t exactly translate to team success. Stanford has won 11 games or more in each of the last four seasons, that after earning double-digit victories just three times (1926, 1940, 1992) in a history dating back to 1892.

Hasn’t Army won here before?
Yes, in its last visit in fact. The Cadets were 17-13 winners here in 1979. It could happen again, you never know.


Mark DeVaughn, Top Stories