Two weeks ago, in this very same space, I wrote that Stanford's "head football coach isn't going anywhere. Neither is the athletic director."
Yeah. Umm… about that…
So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the Arrillaga Family Sports Center on Tuesday morning to do my usual work for the Farm Report, only to be greeted by the question no one wants to hear as soon as they walk into the office: "Did you hear the news?"
Two minutes later I, along with Bill Walsh, Walt Harris, Tara VanDerveer, Darrin Nelson, other athletic department staffers, and Stanford's usual media crew, was watching Ted Leland give his goodbye speech and his reasons for accepting his new job.
Shocking? Honestly, no. It's very rare that athletic directors nowadays last four years on their current job, much less 14. With Leland's exit, Oregon's Bill Moos now becomes the dean of Pac-10 athletic directors. 14 years is obviously a long, long time. Not many of us can keep doing the same job day in and day out over and over again for 14 years without looking for something else to do.
So I wasn't shocked by Tuesday's developments. But was I surprised? You bet.
I'll certainly miss talking with Ted, whether the microphones were on or not. Ted was always willing to chat with me, whether it was for a radio interview in his office, while we were both checking out a game at Sunken Diamond, or while we were on the bus to the stadium on football gameday. The biggest thing I'll miss about talking with him is his candor. While Ted will sometimes give the politically correct answer that isn't really an answer at all, he's even more apt to zing you with his frankness.
After Stanford beat San Jose State in the mud at Spartan Stadium in 2001, Ted took phone calls with me on my postgame show. This was after Stanford had been forced to settle for a berth in the Seattle Bowl, instead of being extended invitations to the more prestigious bowls in San Diego and El Paso. So when I asked Ted for this thoughts on how the bowl situation shook out for Stanford, he could very easily have put on the headset and simply said, "We're just happy to be in any bowl, and we're glad we're going to Seattle."
Instead, Ted used the phrase "slapped in the face" several times while describing his feelings towards the Holiday Bowl and the Sun Bowl that season. I did all I could to keep my jaw from dropping during the show. I've heard many sports executives do radio interviews, and the majority of the time all they give are non-answers that do nothing but dodge the question. Many times, Ted would not only take a question head-on, but answer it in a way that was refreshingly (and sometimes shockingly) candid. It's a trait that more people in a position of accountability would exhibit more often.
But with an athletic program as successful as Stanford's, Ted Leland could afford to be candid. There is no debate that many of Stanford's great accomplishments as an athletic program were Stanford pulled off under Ted Leland's watch. More Sears Cups than we know what to do with. Many national championship squads. Many more national championship contenders. Sparkling new facilities for just about every sport. A Rose Bowl for football. A Final Four for men's hoops. An athletic department that almost always complements this university's reputation for excellence in competition and academics. Not a bad legacy to leave, no?
Of course, one of the best ways to leave a legacy in today's college sports environment is to have a winning football program. Here, Leland readily admits that his hopes for consistency in football fell short. We know all about the highs: the beginning of Bill Walsh II, the Rose Bowl, the 2001 season. We know all about the lows: the end of Bill Walsh II, the 1998 season, and the Buddy Teevens years. But when asked on Tuesday whether consistency and football can coexist at Stanford, Leland replied, "We haven't given up the dream."
I think that when Stanford's next athletic director's job is done, he or she will largely be remembered for what they did with the football program. I'm not as apocalyptic as some of you out there, but I think this is obviously a critical, critical time for Stanford Football. There's a program that needs to turn the corner back to respectability. There's a new stadium that needs to be funded, built, marketed, and sold. There's a tradition that needs to be restored, and there's a bunch of young men in that program right now that need to have something to show for all of their hard work. The next athletic director will have a huge hand in all of those things.
Stanford Athletics without Ted Leland will be like… well, I don't know. Ted's been at Stanford for 14 years. I've been following Stanford for 12 years. It's certainly going to be a new experience for us. It will be strange at first to not see Ted Leland at Maples or on the practice field. But it's also going to be an exciting time as we all learn which direction Stanford Athletics will try to take for the next few years.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
So what did I like about Stanford against Oregon? Well, most of the offensive playcalling in the first half (that draw on third-and-goal from the Ducks' seven-yard line is one Walt Harris would love to have back, though). Trent Edwards' first-half efficiency. Mark Bradford's big catch. Stanford's linebackers. And, maybe most impressively, the push that Stanford's offensive line provided in run blocking…
What didn't I like about Stanford against Oregon? Well, the secondary still hasn't quite found itself yet. When Oregon's receivers weren't making circus catches along the sidelines, they were roaming free and heading downfield. The offensive line couldn't hold up when the Ducks started blitzing in the second half. And a second receiver needs to step up soon…
Found it interesting when I looked at the Stanford defense and saw a 2-4-5 alignment (two linemen, four linebackers, five defensive backs). Given Oregon's base spread offense, I liked the idea behind it. More guys in coverage and more speed on the field. But still, a part of me would have loved to have seen Stanford go a bit more conventional and provide more pressure on Kellen Clemens, who, by my count, was hit only three times on Saturday…
I hated to hear that Washington State linebacker Will Derting is out of this weekend's game with a knee ligament problem. But I'd be lying to you if I said that his injury didn't make me feel better about Stanford's chances this weekend…
Notice how Jeff Tedford says that cal's problems in the deep passing game stem from the fact that the offense has to share the field with the defense when the Bears conduct their daily practices at Memorial Stadium? Translation: go deep in your pockets and get me a practice facility, and our team will go deep on Saturdays…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Ted Leland isn't the only one announcing his departure from Stanford this week. On a personal note, this is my final week in the Bay Area before I move to Connecticut to work for ESPN Radio. I'd like to think that one of my main jobs will be to fight the East Coast Bias from within! I'll certainly do my best. Fear not, Clardy's Corner will continue through the rest of the season. So even though I won't be hanging out at Stanford Stadium, I'll still be writing this column every Wednesday and hanging out on the BootBoards. I'll also be thinking about you Bay Area Cardinalmaniacs™ when there are ten inches of snow on the ground back in Bristol…
Cougar fan Shane from Seattle writes: "I just want to put my two cents in regarding the prevailing opinion that U$C…cannot be beaten. I am saying it right now, they will fall in Pac-10 play. I would love to say to my Cougs, but we have them on the road, so I'm not feeling THAT bold. But someone is gonna git these guys. All you folks on the Farm are well aware of what an overmatched team can do when inspired (shout out to the Aggies!) and there is no way that U$C can match the intensity of their opponents every week. They are circled on EVERYONE'S schedule and there is no convincing a bunch of hair-on-fire 18-22 year olds that they can't grab the golden ring, and the national spotlight by halting the Trojan blitzkrieg. I will be rooting hard for the Cougs and anyone playing U$C until, of course, U$C plays the Huskies."
I hope you're right about U$C. I really, really, really hope you're right about U$C. Nothing would make me happier than to see them fall off. Right now, though, I just don't see it happening. Not the way they're playing. I mean, they can basically take a half off and still get a 32-point win at the most hostile road environment in the Pac-10 (then again, U$C has a pretty hostile environment, but that's outside the stadium!). Then the next week they can go without a touchdown pass from their quarterback and 79 penalties from their offense and still beat a darn good Arizona State squad. Pains me to say it, but they might not be losing a game for quite a while.
Mark from Point Reyes writes: "If you really want to be depressed, read the last couple of articles in The Atlantic regarding admission to elite schools like Stanford. It is going to get harder in the next few years. That means more one-star recruits and only rarely a Konrad Reuland type. I plead guilty to blaming academics for losing seasons but how do you win when only a handful of your players can start for Kal? It takes more than a great coach and a fired-up attitude."
I don't doubt that it's going to get harder in the next few years, especially considering what everyone else in the Pac-10 is doing. Heck, I said this two years ago. But the problem with Stanford's admissions requirements isn't that we don't get the talent to come here. We do. The problem is that we don't get enough, because the pool Stanford draws from is so small. So while talent isn't affected that much by Stanford's admissions requirements, depth certainly is. The teams that win are the teams that have enough depth to be consistent and competitive all season long. Until Stanford can find a way to get that depth without prostituting its integrity and its academic reputation (like some other Pac-10 schools I can think of), it's going to be difficult for Stanford to be shooting for Rose Bowls every year.
In reply to last week's Corner, Nick from somewhere in Arizona writes: "Another thing that makes football games much longer is instant replay. It takes too long in the NFL, and it takes too long in college football too!"
Glad you brought up replay, because I totally forgot to last week. The only reason instant replay should be banned is if the system just doesn't work and if the correct calls aren't being made, not if it's making the games too long. As long as the correct calls are resulting from replay, I'm fine with however long it might take to enforce it. Just get it right. In the end, that's all I really care about.
A lot of people (who tend to be baseball types) don't like replay because it takes away the "human element" of the game. I've never understood this, because the "human element" is fine until the moment it costs your team a game. Or worse, a championship. Ask St. Louis Cardinals fans who remember Don Denkinger and 1985 for their thoughts on whether the "human element" is good for the game.
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at email@example.com! The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…
Hey, Wazzu… what the heck happened last week?
Arizona @ U$C. It's official… no one is beating U$C. No one. I like U$C by 38.
cal @ UCLA. Will the real Bruins squad please stand up? I have a funny feeling they will this Saturday. The Bears will still get a 100-yard rusher, but Joe Ayoob and the cal defense will make a critical mistake when it counts most. I like UCLA by 9.
Oregon @ Arizona State. Very intriguing chess match on both sides of the ball here, as the hard-hitting A-State defense tries to contain the spread option and Sam Keller takes his shots against Oregon's defense. But this game could be won with special teams. Both teams have struggled in that department, but only one team has improved. That's why I like Arizona State by 15.
Last week: 3-1 (straight-up), 1-3 (ATS).
This year: 6-1 (straight-up), 4-3 (ATS).
Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.
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