No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, or the eminent graduation of top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn't that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.
On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.
We are pleased present Stanford football's 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.
10. Thanks, John
Stanford builds new stadium, enters the arms race
The university decided that it was time to do away with the aging 85,000-seat structure, whose bottom 14 rows were unusable because of poor sightlines. Bulldozers moved in to raze the old bowl and its inadequate restrooms immediately at the conclusion of Stanford's heartbreaking 38-31 loss to Notre Dame. That loss ended an underwhelming 5-6 season that couldn't end soon enough. Work was being done to take down the old house before fans had even left their seats.
A much cozier, double-deck 50,026-seat facility would take its place. Stanford sacrificed its ability to host potential Super Bowls, World Cups, and even Olympic games, opting instead for a football-specific venue that could be consistently full. The track in between the stands and field was gone, as were the days of home games played in a cavernous, empty, hollow bowl.
That was the plan, at least.
But even the sparkling new Stanford Stadium - completed in an unprecedented 42 weeks despite two weather delays - was largely empty during its inaugural season, during which the Cardinal finished one of the most miserable years in school history at 1-11. The tide didn't begin to turn until Jim Harbaugh's arrival in 2007, when the new Stanford Stadium first shook to close that year. That's when the Cardinal upset Cal 20-13 in the venue's first Big Game.
By 2011, the Farm Boys' consistent success had won the fan base back, and the stadium was sold out for every game but the season opener against San Jose State. Jet engine-like noise overtook the place for the November 12 showdown versus Oregon.
Contractors had to answer only to Stanford benefactor John Arrillaga, whose May 2006 gift of $100 million to the university was the largest individual contribution ever given to the school. An average of 110-125 workers hammered away at the stadium over two daily shifts. Over 420 workers simultaneously teemed around the construction site at its building peak.
In the end, an unusually wet winter caused the scheduled unveiling against San Jose State to be moved to Spartan Stadium. Instead, the opener came on September 16, 2006 against Navy. The game was a dismal 37-9 Cardinal loss. But The Opening of the new Stanford Stadium symbolized the Cardinal's step into the college football facilities arms race. Within three years, the level of play on the field was worthy of its new home.
50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of UW
37. Opening act - 2009 win over Ducks launches a November to remember
36. Going bowling - Loss to Sooners doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
35. "Shut up and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in 2010
34. Look ma, no legs - Luck throws a 52- yard dart while in free fall
33. Sit down - Burfict's head leads to go-ahead TD, Wilkerson's ices W at ASU
32. Injury bug - Despite multiple injuries, 2011 Card manage to rally
31. Whale watching - Stanford starts recruiting at an elite level
30. Suck for Luck - The media machine anoints the next football savior
29. Outta my way - Luck bounces off Cattouse for a 50-yard run
28. 0 for 3 - Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
27. Laying the wood - Luck lays out Wright
26. Concussed - Owusu is knocked out of four games
25. Jumping ahead - A 21-3 lead vanishes in Autzen in 2010
24. So close, yet so far - Luck's worst game costs Card 2009 Big Game
23. Run, Toby, run - Gerhart takes over against the Irish
22. Xs and Os… and Ys and Zs - Stanford toys with defensive coordinators
21. "The perfect football player" - Marecic makes purists weep
20. Rumor Mill - Report: Harbaugh to take every NFL job
19. "What's Your Deal?" - Stanford hands 'SC worst home beatdown ever
18. Continuity Unknown to Mankind - Shaw named Harbaugh's successor
17. Whitaker Beats USC - Cardinal hand the Trojans another soul-crusher
16. We've Got the Axe - Stanford wins first Big Game in six years
15. Return of the Red Zone - Cardinal students populate the stadium in force
14. Blown Away - Stanford takes VT to the woodshed in Orange Bowl
13. Streaking - Stanford wins 10 straight games by 25+ points
12. Dance With Girl Who Brung Ya - Card settle for FG attempt, loses Fiesta Bowl
11. College Gameday to The Farm - Campus welcomes ESPN
David Lombardi, a TV and radio
(95.7 The Game SF) personality in the Bay Area, is a Stanford and Pac-12
Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for
several years. You can check out several of his Stanford calls and
other writing at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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