Coach's Corner

The Cardinal fired another football coach. Maybe they should research the market this time before they choose another one. They have unsuccessfully plucked two coaches from the east and both failed miserably with the west coast school.

I know they have a really tough task at Stanford simply because of their academic standards. Still, hopefully they have learned from their own mistakes and pick a good coach and stay with him this time.

Stanford beat the Huskies in what was the most embarrassing loss of the season for the Washington. It was a throw away game and Washington indeed threw it away. I watched the Stanford sideline at the end of the game and their kids didn't even know how to act.

I knew right then that Coach Walt Harris was in trouble.

Here was a team that hadn't won a game all season long. A team that appeared inept. They nevertheless had beaten a team on the road without their starting quarterback. Sure, they went down and sang with their fans in the end zone to celebrate but nobody was really jacked about their victory.

It was to be their only win of the season before they will start all over again with another new coach with another new system with another new set of coaches with another new vision for winning football.

Essentially they have decided to throw away another recruiting class and make yet another coaching change. Given their condition, it might be a prudent move, but it makes one wonder if they'll ever stop spinning in circles aimlessly.

Like Washington, this will be their third coaching change since 2000 and their fourth coach in six years. This is not the way to be successful in college football - or football at any level for that matter. This is a program that has been killing itself ever since they lost Tyrone Willingham.

Let's admit a few things. Stanford is the top ranked and number one academic institution in this half of the country. It is a very cool campus and they are excellent in the all-sports arena having won the Barbara Hedges' coveted Sears Cup more times than anyone in all of college sports. They are the champions of the individual sports and are always competitive in fencing, tennis, golf, swimming, and some sports that Washington doesn't offer.

Unfortunately, Stanford is not considered a "football" school by reputation. They are a mess in that department.

It just seems to be a sport that doesn't really excite their largely apathetic student population. Football must be too militaristic or conservative for their inclinations. Their student section was pathetic this year with most leaving games early or not attending at all. They actually have as many students going to basketball games as they do to football. They rebuilt a beautiful football stadium reducing their seating capacity by almost 30,000, trying to make it more intimate.

Until they can get a coach and stay with him, they will continue to be a losing program both in the standings and in attendance. They can't play Cal every game so they are going to have to build it slowly and build it the right way with consistent recruiting in order to get the fans back.

Here is probably the nicest stadium in the conference and it's only half full. You can put a tuxedo on a pig but it's still a pig. If you have a losing product then nobody will show up no matter where you play.

We are seeing it here at Washington and they have not even begun to fix the stadium.

These are disturbing parallels. Both schools have picked coaches based upon something other than substance, organization, and reputation. Everyone in college football knew that Rick Neuheisel was working the edges before Washington surprising hired him away from Colorado for millions of dollars. There were many Buffalo supporters who quickly told any Husky who would listen that Washington would eventually regret the hire. They were proved to be correct.

Likewise, everyone in college coaching realized that Harris was on thin ice at Pittsburg and that they were extremely anxious to get rid of him before Stanford lured him away following a BCS appearance.

The primary difference here is money. Stanford has been cheap in their salaries and most of their assistants can't even afford to rent near the Palo Alto campus, much less buy a home.

Both schools also sandwiched in another coach with Washington hiring Keith Gilbertson and then throwing him under the bus while Stanford opted for a stint with Buddy Teevins (who?). Neither had a prayer nor their administrations backing, which just created more instability for the program and in recruiting.

Maybe Stanford should consider a coach that is familiar with the west coast recruiting scene.

Both programs now need to concentrate on getting high school kids and rebuild their programs with patience. Go out and recruit 25 high school kids this year and the next and take the time to develop them into winners. Quit signing coaches to five-year contracts and then firing them in two. That ends up being expensive with the buyouts does nothing to enhance the program.

If you are going to sign a guy to a five-year contract, give him five years then assess your situation and evaluate the program's progress then.

There will be no instant fix at Stanford like there was at Cal. There will be no immediate turn around. They need to bring someone in who has a system and a plan that will mature over a period of, say, five years.

This is not to say that Stanford cannot and will not be a good football team. They still have an incredible draw because of their academic reputation but because of their lack of patience, they have created a coaching revolving door and thereby lack continuity.

I personally don't think either Washington or Stanford has had the talent level over the last five years to be a consistent winner in this conference. There was very little margin for error on either team. You can't keep changing the system and expect to have winning results.

This time around, hopefully Stanford finds a coach they will commit to and stay with until they finally turn the corner. They have invested in their facilities and now they must invest in their future by picking someone who will stay the course and rebuild the program the right way.

It won't come cheap however, because the cost of living there is an added detraction for good coaches. Stanford has always had an advantage being the top private school in the west. They now have a wonderful venue for football. Many years ago they were one of the finest football schools in the west. Now they are one of the worst simply because they have made too many wrong coaching decisions.

Like I said, they are very much like Washington with both teams 9th and 10th in the Pac-10. The fact they rank number one and two in terms of graduation should count for something, but it seems to be meaningless except in recruiting parents.

Hopefully, both make a commitment to stay with their chosen coaches and give them the fighting chance to be successful by not firing them.

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