Bob Bowlsby Press Conference: Part II

New athletic director Bob Bowlsby pulled the trigger after just the second year of Walt Harris at Stanford. He addressed the media afterward, and we have the entire transcript. In this second half, Bowslby answers questions on the complexity of factors in his decision, as well as what will shape his search for Stanford Football's next head coach.

How much pause did Walt's two-year tenure give you in making this change, and whether it would be perceived that he had enough time to do what he needed to do?

"Given the state of the program, I don't know that he had enough time to do what we needed to have him do.  It is my opinion that after two years, I would have hoped we would be further along.  I think probably the most critical assessment I had to make was: 'Does investing another year present the likely possibility of making substantial improvement?'  If I couldn't answer that affirmatively, which I ultimately didn't, then I ultimately felt like it was better to make the change now than wait more time.  As I said at the outset, I don't know that was entirely fair, but my first responsibility is fairness to our institution and to our student-athletes."

We've heard rumblings about playcalling.  Was that an issue at all?

"[pause]  It's all part of it.  If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.  We were at times really challenged to figure out how to move the ball.  There's no question about that, and that's reflected in the statistical difficulties that we have.  Our defense - there's no question we got better the last six games.  The statistics show that, and the performance on the field showed it.  But in my opinion, we didn't get enough better with enough long-term prospect to feel good about going forward."

At what point in the season did you more or less reach your conclusion?

"Oh, I don't know that I care to get into that.  It was my own process, and it included a lot of other people.  I don't know that is necessarily germane."

Did it involve any of the players?

"I have talked to many of our players throughout the year."

Did you get the sense that he was too hard on the players?

"I don't know.  You would have to ask them that.  I'm only at practice a couple of days a week.  I don't know that I have a frame of reference to answer that, Darren."

You've obviously been through this before at Iowa.  What did you learn from that?  Would you like to duplicate that here?  You obviously found a pretty good coach last time...

"Yeah, if I could move Kirk Ferentz here, I'd be happy [smiles].  I think that he has an awful lot of the characteristics I'm going to be looking for in our new coach.  The integrity, the work ethic, the honesty, the teaching ability and the ability to shape young football players to be athletes."

How did you know it was him when you hired him?

"[smiles]  It's easy in retrospect to say that I knew it all along.  But when we were going 1-10 and 3-9, there were some days when you always question yourself and wonder if it will ever bear fruit.  At the end of the second year, however, and even at the end of the first year, it wasn't showing up on the scoreboard.  It wasn't showing up in the wins and losses.  But it was showing up a lot of other places.  That experience is part of how I got to where we got to - because I couldn't see the same kind of progress here that I saw there after two years."

Norm Chow was a candidate here two years ago last time.  Would you consider him a candidate?

"I don't have any comment on any candidates."

Other than Ferentz?

"[laughs]  I wouldn't consider him a candidate."

Was Saturday's performance weighing into this decision at all?

"It was one game.  Had it been played earlier in the year, it would have been valued at the same level that it was valued this time around."

This program has been historically known for offense.  Would you say that is the same generality, that you're looking for an offensive head coach?

"Well, offense sells tickets; defense wins championships.  I don't know if you can be deficient in either area and expect to be highly successful.  I do think that the average football fan probably enjoys offense more than defense, just because there's a lot going on out there.  Personally, I don't value one over the other, but I think that offensive innovators have always done well at Stanford."

Did you say earlier a timeline on when you want to have this done?

"I'd like to have it wrapped up in the next couple weeks."

Did the feedback from the Stanford student athletes help shape the way you look at the Stanford head coach differently from Iowa?  Did their perspective provide some information to you?

"No, not in the regard of how it's different.  I think football players are football players.  They like to have a chance to win, and the work hard.  Unfortunately you work just as hard as you do for the wins, a lot of times.  Maybe harder.  It think they want to have a chance to compete, and they want to be excited about what they're doing and why they're doing it.  This has a lot of moving parts.  Walt Harris happens to be the head coach of the program, and in that regard, he ends up holding the bag for it in a lot of different ways.  But it has a lot of moving parts.  There is no silver bullet in this.  There will have to be a lot of good decisions and a lot of favorable actions by a whole bunch of different folks to put it where it needs to be."

You have many sports you are concerned about.  But is this your imprint on this program, making this change?

"I'm not really interested in what my imprint is.  One of the things about a football program, fair or unfair, is that the revenue that is derived from it has an awful lot to do with what we can do in all of those other sports.  While we have the benefit of a very large scholarship endowment and some other sources of revenue, football continues to be very important for us.  We generate a lot more money from football than from any other element of our program.  I've said before, the Stanford program is an absolutely terrific program in so many ways, but I think it's hard to declare yourself the best of the best in the country when you don't win consistently in the sports that people covet, like football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, baseball and some of those where the fan support is really substantial, plus the media coverage and all of those things that go along with it.  Is it important?  Yes, it's very important to the vitality of our program.  I don't know that it has anything to do with my imprint, particularly."

Did you make a decision that was right for this program, or did you make a decision that was right for a football program?

"Well, I hope I did both, Michelle.  I hope that I did both of those."

Bob, how long was your meeting this morning with Walt?

"About a half-hour."

Was he surprised?

"He was disappointed.  I don't know that he was surprised."

What were your hopes and what were your levels of expectations that you had for this football season when you came here in July?

"Well, I had only seen us play once last year.  I had seen the Notre Dame game.  To tell you the truth, I was watching it from the standpoint of bowl implications for Iowa and wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to either team from a personnel standpoint, so I didn't spend a lot of time grinding on what we did well or didn't do well.  But when I came in, we had been 5-6 the year before and had a pretty good stable of returning veterans - a starting quarterback who is a likely professional prospect, some receivers, a veteran offensive line and some good players on defense.  My expectation was that we would have a year where we would see continued building on the first year's foundation."

Is it a particularly muddy situation to see through, with injuries to a number of those players?

"It certainly vitiates the perspective a little bit.  That's why I say that it has a lot of factors to it.  Clearly, the injuries were a factor this year in terms of how well we could perform in certain games."

What then would be your expectations for next year, with another coaching change and transition for the student-athletes?

"Progress.  I think I'm in a position where I can evaluate progress, even if it doesn't show up on the scoreboard or doesn't show up in the wins and losses column.  I think you have to see those things in order to have hope for the years ahead.  That's what I would like to see as we go forward."


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