Clardy's Corner: The BCS Bowl Tree

Forget Northern Illinois. Once again, the true BCS busters are the Stanford Cardinal. And by bucking a system set up for them to fail, the Cardinal are poised to taste the fruit of a BCS bowl once again.

Two years ago, whenever anybody asked me if I was making the trip to Miami to see the Cardinal at the Orange Bowl, I would always say, "Of course! BCS bowls don't grow on trees for us at Stanford, you know."

Last year, whenever anybody asked me if I was heading to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl, I would always reply, "Of course! We may never be here again. BCS bowls don't grow on trees for us at Stanford, you know."

This year, I'm starting to wonder if the Card have found the BCS Bowl tree.

For a third straight year, Cardinalmaniacs are making plans to head to one of the biggest bowls college football has to offer. Only this time, it's not just any BCS bowl. It's The Rose Bowl. The Grandaddy Of Them All. The bowl all Stanford fans have dreams about. After 13 years of waiting, the dream is reality. In 27 days, we will get to watch our team take the field on a New Year's Day in Pasadena.

(Meanwhile, cal fans will be spending their 54th consecutive New Year's Day watching someone else play in Pasadena. Just thought I'd point that out…)

Every once in a while, the Big 10 Network replays that 2000 Rose Bowl, and I'll usually sit down and check it out. But because I remember that cloudy, chilly afternoon with such mixed emotions, I'll only make it through the first half before conveniently finding other things to watch. Thirteen years later, it's hard to feel the joy of seeing the Troy Walters and Trench Dogs put up valiant efforts without feeling the disappointment of knowing that game was for the taking.

The last time Stanford was going to the Rose Bowl, Y2K fever was spreading. This latest trip has the end of the Mayan calendar hovering over it, and if they're right, it's game over for everyone in 16 days. Coincidence? I don't know. But if it takes apocalyptic predictions for Stanford to make it to Pasadena, I don't care. It could be the end of the world as we know it, and I'd feel fine.

The Cardinal in a third straight BCS bowl? This just should not be happening. Let's face it: the college football system, as it is constructed right now, is not designed for Stanford to succeed. The school is too small. Their fan base is too placid. They don't have the hopes and dreams of an entire state behind them. They don't bring guaranteed television ratings. And they still emphasize—can you believe it?—academics over football.

Stanford has found a way to beat that system. They have done it without having a major TV broadcast network in its pocket and zillions of "subway alumni" worldwide. They've done it without breaking the bank and buying their way into prominence, either with a big-name head coach, or with facilities so incredible that Robin Leach should be giving tours. Without going to gimmicky fast-break football. Without overzealous boosters irrationally calling all the shots. Without directly tying the identity and self-worth of the school to the fortunes of its football team.

And, most importantly, they've done it without sacrificing the very integrity and soul of the university. Stanford is still known for its top-notch academics, first and foremost. Only now, the school has the top-notch football program to match.

We have finally been seeing what I openly hoped for during the dark days of the program a few years ago. The University has not only recognized the benefits of emphasizing football, they've actually embraced them. For too long, it seemed that the University was afraid of having a good football team. Now that the football team has become a national player, the school has noticed the happy alumni, the psyched-up students, and the positive exposure that comes with it all. And they seem to like it.

My ultimate dream has always been to see Stanford play in a Sugar Bowl. New Orleans. The Superdome. Bourbon Street. Beignets in the morning, gumbo in the evening, and hurricanes at night. As unlikely as that scenario has always been, I always thought that nothing would be cooler. The rate things are going, maybe it's not so farfetched now.

And if, somehow, it happened in the next few years, would you be surprised? I wouldn't. Stanford got There with Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh. But now they've proven they can stay There without them. That is why this season's run is so important. Success for Stanford Football has been all too fleeting throughout its history. But now, finally, the Cardinal may have achieved a permanent legitimacy that this program has never had.

So now that Stanford is off to its third straight BCS bowl, perhaps the time has come to raise the bar. Perhaps it's time to expect the Cardinal to be in the big-time bowl mix at season's end, instead of reacting with surprise. Maybe it's time to officially deem Stanford an elite program.

I'm not saying that it's time to act like Rose Bowls are our birthright as Stanford fans, and if the Card don't get there, then coaches need to be fired. I am saying that it's time to stop being surprised when Stanford is in the mix for a BCS bowl (and soon, a spot in the playoffs). It's time to truly expect greatness.

The past few seasons merely sowed the seeds. Now, maybe BCS bowls grow on trees after all for us at Stanford.

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Just one Random Thought this time around, and it's our Quote of the Week, courtesy my buddy Jeremy: "Roses are red, Bruins are blue. We won the Pac-12. Without Luck, too!"

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We have come to the official end of the 11th season of Clardy's Corner. As I type this, I'm on a bumpy flight somewhere over Middle America, headed west to the Bay Area for my usual December vacation. As always, I look forward to my day visiting friends on The Farm. That place is home.

Once again, these Corners wouldn't be possible without the support of Daniel Novinson, Jim Rutter and Lars Ahlstrom. But, as always, above all else, your support makes these Corners go. Thank you…and see you in Pasadena.

Go Stanford!

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Troy Clardy is in his 20th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 11th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on You can also check him out online at, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at

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