Harbaugh Hire: Bob Bowlsby Q&A

After two weeks of his silently conducted search for the new head coach of Stanford Football, there were many questions to ask athletic director Bob Bowlsby. Some were handled in the public press conference Tuesday on the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. For other answers we talked with Bowlsby afterward on the process, longevity, Kirk Ferentz comparisons, electricity, scouting Harbaugh in person and more.

You've only been here six months.  Do you feel you know this place well enough yet in making this hire?  Stanford is a different place...

"It is.  It's very different from other places, and I certainly don't have all the answers.  There's no doubt about that.  But I feel like I've learned a lot since I've been here.  I am a quick study for the most part.  I still have a lot to learn about the people, the culture and the traditions that are here, but I think in large measure I have learned that this is a place which values success and which fosters success.  I think it's important to put a person in place in our flagship program who understands how to produce success."

Jim Harbaugh is a Michigan alumnus.  He has had the NFL playing experience, and that may be a coaching aspiration.  You said two weeks ago that you wanted somebody who you could keep here, for continuity and success.  What made you believe that in hiring Jim, you have hired somebody who after he succeeds will stay here?

"Because he told me that he wants to be here for a long time.  As I said earlier, he went into the college ranks to hone his craft and to get the experience of being a head coach.  His roots in Palo Alto are deep, and he has stated that he wants to be here for a long time.  I take him at his word."

Can you share the length of the contract?

"It will be five years."

Is that three-and-two?

"No, that's five years straight out."

What was the first contact you had with Jim in this process the first week?

"I picked up the phone and called him, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday.  I was actively talking to lots of people during that time, but he was one of the first calls that I made."

Was there something during that phone call that immediately let you know he would be in the late stages of this search and hiring process?

"No, it was very much taking a step at a time.  But I had always heard great things about him.  Prior to the time I made the call, I obviously had done a bit of background work on him."

Is electricity in this hire and this coach important for you?

"Absolutely.  I think I mentioned Jim's energy, and I think that energy plays itself out in a variety of different ways, not the least of which is that most of you I think are going out of this room and saying, 'This guy has some passion for the task.'  I think that converts to other people being interested in the program."

Do you see Kirk Ferentz in Jim Harbaugh?

"Yeah.  Kirk Ferentz is a guy who has lived what Jim just described.  He cares about his players.  He holds them accountable.  He treats them like adults.  They work together, and there is a mutual respect.  I think that any coach will tell you when you get to the place where you would rather do anything than let the kids down, and they would rather do anything than let you down, you've got it made.  I think that is what Jim has done at San Diego, and that's what he has done at other places in his past.  I think when you hear people tell you repeated that this is a guy who makes people better around him, that tells a big part of the story."

Did the DUI take a while for you to get through?

"He volunteered the information on it.  He was very forthright in the way he handled it.  He ensured us that it would never happen again.  He took full responsibility for it, and the first thing he did was talk to his team about it.  I think it was a very unfortunate occurrence, but there were lessons to be learned from it because of the way he handled it."

Is there anything you can tell us about the pool of salary for his assistants?  That has been a problem recently here...

"We understand that being able to retain staff and properly compensating staff has been an issue.  We will be working our way through that.  Staff continuity is a principal concern and consideration, and we will make sure that we are addressing it."

Do you feel that the President understands where that fits into the equation of a successful program?

"You would have to ask the President about that.  I have been very well supported in everything I have asked to do."

The San Diego game you said that you attended - was that the UC Davis game last month?


What did you take away from the game?  What reactions did you have to the football that you watched?

"Well, it was a non-scholarship I-AA program against a full scholarship I-AA program, and it was decided on the last two possessions of the game.  What I took away from that is just what people told me I would take away:  Jim Harbaugh makes the people around him better."

He talked to us here about "attack, attack" and a "lethal" offense.  Were you excited by what you saw?

"Do you remember the sequence in Tin Cup?  Where the two women are talking by the rope.  She said, 'He's a real risk-taker.'  The other says, 'If you like a risk-taker, you found the right guy.'  Well, Jim - I don't think you'll find him playing conservatively.  I think he will coach as he played, taking risks and capturing rewards."

Is that what you want and what you found in Kirk Ferentz, or is that just what you feel fits Stanford?

"I just think that is an element of Jim's personality.  It's great that he has it.  But he is also a very thoughtful, well-prepared football coach.  That's really how he strikes me as being similar to Kirk - he leaves no detail incomplete in terms of preparation.  That's what is important."

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