Bob Bowlsby Press Conference: Part I

If you haven't heard him or gotten to know Bob Bowlsby, now is the time to try and understand Stanford's new athletic director. Less than six months into the job, Bowlsby took a big step Monday in firing Stanford Football head coach Walt Harris. Promptly thereafter, the AD addressed the media to answer questions on the move, events this week and the search ahead. We have the complete transcript.

Opening statement

"Good morning.  Thank you for coming on such short notice.  I have made the decision, in consultation with a wide number of people, that the time is right for us to make a change in our football leadership.  First of all let me say that I have appreciated my relationship with Walt Harris and his staff.  And I have appreciated all of their hard work on behalf of our university.  This has been a tough year, and in some measure, this decision wasn't made as a result of being 1-11 as much as it was a result of not seeing the progress in some of the really critical areas we would have hoped for after two years.  We are going about the process of identifying candidates.  Obviously, every athletic director keeps a short list in their back pocket, and I have mine.  And it's not one that I'm prepared to share at this point.  We are going about the process, and I would hope to be able to get on down the path in about two weeks - be done with the search.  Our assistant coaches are on contract through June 30, and we will stand behind those contracts.  There are mitigation clauses in there where if they find other work, our obligations are reduced.  Walt Harris has three years left on his contract.  We are in the process of negotiations on the terms under which we will separate.  Once again, let me reiterate that there were some things that were certainly not of Walt's making and he certainly didn't have a lot of control over, but in the end it was my belief that we ought to start fresh and do all the big things and all the small things that it takes to return Stanford Football to its appropriate position of competitiveness every game."

You said that there are criteria beyond 1-11.  Can you share some of those criteria which this program and this season did not meet?

"I think that there are a lot of ways in which you improve without it necessarily showing up on the scoreboard.  Those are the kinds of things I'm talking about.  We are in the bottom 10 of virtually every statistical category that the NCAA keeps on offense and on defense.  There's plenty of work to do in a wide variety of areas, and I think, as you've heard me say before, the margin for error is relatively narrow at Stanford.  We have to do all the little things right, and we have to get the big things right as well, if we have any chance to compete over the long haul.  That's the process that we will go about."

What qualities are you looking for in your next head coach?

"I think we need a person who is a relentless recruiter.  I think all of our coaches in all of our sports are faced with the same task.  They have to go out and find the student-athlete prospect in Georgia, Indiana, Montana or someplace else who is academically capable of benefiting from a Stanford education and athletically competent to the point that they could play at any of the programs around the country and could do well.  And we have to convince that student-athlete to leave their home state, come to Stanford and make a lifetime difference in terms of their education.  We need somebody who embraces that, goes about it energetically and can go out and attract to our campus the people it takes to compete in the Pac-10 Conference."

Speaking of recruiting, you gave two weeks for this timeframe.  There are a number of kids, close to a dozen, scheduled to come in on Friday.  Do you cancel that now?

"I have asked the coaches that are on campus to stay on campus and those that are away to come back as soon as it is practical.  That means touching base with recruits and letting them know what's going on.  I will personally call everybody that we've offered and everybody that has been committed and let them know what's going on.  I think it does create some challenges, obviously, with the visits this weekend.  To the extent that we can, we will keep those together.  If the prospects want to move them later in order to know who the new head coach is going to be, then we'll certain accomodate that."

Bob, how much were the empty seats this season a factor?

"There is no question that's a factor because people vote with their pocketbooks and they vote with their feet.  The last game against Oregon State, we probably had 12,000 people in the stands.  Fortunately we had sold 34,000 or 35,000 tickets.  That's the good side from the financial standpoint, but one has to wonder if those people who had $45 tickets and didn't care to come to the game will buy them again next year.  I would be less than honest if I didn't say that declining attendance, declining fan support and all of the things that go along with that are certainly a factor with this decision."

Will you meet with the current players?

"I will meet with the current players at 11am this morning."

What do you believe that this program is capable of?

"Anything.  I think it's harder here.  We have to have the very best people.  I've said it before - it was a huge detriment to Walt to lose five assistants after last season.  Continuity is as important maybe as anything in building a program, and we're certainly going to be very careful about who comes in as our next head coach.  The additional piece of that is that we have to have the right people on the staff.  Then we have to keep them here."

Before you decide on your next head coach, have you decided on any assistant who will be held over for that continuity?

"That will be up to the head coach."

Is the short list in your head the same one you would have had at Iowa?

"No, it's not the same one I would have.  Some of the people are the same, but this is a different place and a different situation."

Do you want somebody with head coaching experience?

"Preferably.  I think you have to look for somebody who has done something as closely akin to the job you are asking them to do as you possibly can.  The more you depart from that, the more risk there is."

Beyond the relentless recruiter, is there any other set of unique characteristics you are looking for?

"Impeccable integrity.  Someone who understands and embraces what it is that Stanford stands for, what the place is about.  I think that's important.  If at all possible, it would be nice to have somebody who has had an experience here.  There aren't a lot of those people out there, but we're certainly going to talk to anybody who has that skill set and experiential background.  I think that you have to be a teacher here.  You have to be able to recruit the best athletes here, but you also have to be able to coach them up and teach them how to compete against the people who we play in our league and in our non-conference schedule.  Our business at its core is helping 17- or 18-year-old adolescents to become 22- or 23-year-old adults.  This person needs to be a mentor, needs to be a teacher and needs to be a person of impeccable integrity and who has a substantial work ethic because that's certainly required here."

Salary certainly was the issue last time.  Can Stanford pay the going rate for a football coach right now?

"I don't know what the going rate is, per se, but we're going to try to find the right candidate first.  Then worry about the compensation.  I think it's a fair question; I just don't know that I have a really good answer for you, Darren."

Because of the financial implications of the three-year buyout and the current state of the department, did you have to meet with John Etchemendy to get an OK to make this move?

"I have met with all of the appropriate people on campus to get their buy-in and their approval for what we're doing."

Do any of those powers give any guidance on what you need to do financially when bringing in this next head coach?

"No, we didn't talk specifically about that.  It's obvious that if we're going to take this step that there are some financial implications, and we certainly have contemplated those financial implications.  We understand the ramifications and what we need to do."

Will you put a committee together for this?

"I will do most of the screening myself.  When we get down to a final, small group of candidates, I imagine that there will be a group of people from inside and outside of the program, on and off campus, who will get involved in some level of consideration.  But ultimately, when it's all said and done, I'll make the hire with input from a variety of sources."

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