It’s a bit of a Cinderella story. Only five years ago, Stanford football wasn’t even on the radar. With an excruciating 1-11 season, we won one measly game all year and could hardly pull enough crowds to justify the construction of our beautiful new stadium. Ouch. Paradoxically, for those of us in the classes of ’13 and up, winning has been the rule, never the exception. Both of my first two football games freshman year involved rockstar wide-receiver Chris Owusu running for a touchdown within 30 seconds of the start of the game. Last year Stanford finished out a delightfully palindromic 11-1 season with a scorching victory at the Orange Bowl. Football dominance, ladies and gentlemen, has arrived at Stanford.
As a friend of mine stated in awed confusion, I’m “not sure how we became a football school,” but I’m ever so glad we did.
Stanford owes a lot to the program development provided by Jim Harbaugh and last year’s graduating seniors. Standout players like Richard Sherman, Owen Marecic, and Ryan Whalen stuck it out from painful losses in their freshman year to bring our previously pitied football team into the national spotlight and to a BCS Bowl victory.
But while Harbaugh and his senior stars have left us for the pros, Stanford has no cause for grieving. New head coach David Shaw took the helm this season after four influential and formative years as the team’s offensive coordinator. Shaw has played an instrumental role in the resurgence of the Stanford program, tutoring star running backs and revolutionizing the Cardinal running game. Per Stanford President John Hennessy:
David Shaw has been a large part of the Stanford football program’s success over the past four years, and he has all of the experience and qualities to continue the momentum into the future. He is a Stanford graduate and a long-time member of our Stanford family who has personally been part of our scholar-athlete tradition. He understands our values.”
And while the loss of last year’s graduating seniors provided some cause for alarm, young Stanford players prove time and time again that we’re in good hands. Stanford sophomores and juniors have eagerly risen to the standards set by their predecessors, and standouts like Shayne Skov, Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, and Anthony Wilkerson show that Cardinal dominance is here to stay.
But don’t forget our not-so-secret weapon. Acclaimed and adored throughout campus and around the world, Andrew Luck is practically the perfect representative of Stanford values, work ethic, and prioritization of excellence. Juggling the myriad commitments of being a Stanford student-athlete (and not the other way around), Heisman likely Luck turned down a #1 NFL Draft pick to lead the Cardinal for a final year. I could rattle off the stats and acclaim, but I think most Stanford fans would agree that the reason Andrew stands out is his humility and dedication despite the fame that would easily go to a lesser man’s head. When asked by ESPN about his personal goals, Luck stated, “[m]aybe not take the easy road. Go to a place where they’re struggling a little and see how good you really are. Can you help turn a program around?” I’d say the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!”
Rocketed to national media awareness by our successes of last year, it’s now up to the Cardinal to deliver.
Andrew Luck rocked the covers of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine. Sports pundits are already forecasting Stanford to be the “best in the new West” (Sports Illustrated), and insisting that Stanford is poised to be top five in the nation. With a 3-0 record thus far, it’s only a matter of keeping up momentum.
The most flattering press thus far (in my opinion) is our position on The Wall Street Journal’s College Football Grid of Shame. Stanford ranks highest on both axes: “wear your colors with pride” and “projected powerhouse.”
Gauntlet thrown. Let’s deliver!
Why Stanford Fans Need to Represent
As put by The Wall Street Journal, these may be “the greatest days this program will ever see.” But as they note: “[m]aybe more than a handful of people will actually show up to see it.” It’s a valid point. We’ve won the Director’s Cup 17 times in a row and we finally have a football team worthy of an athletic powerhouse. But fan attendance at games is, well, kinda abysmal.
Stanford fans have served as the butt of many a joke in the sports news media. And it’s somewhat justified: while Palo Alto consistently ranks as Forbes’ #2 college sports town in the nation, too often students serve as merely a light Cardinal dusting on an otherwise vacant fan section. In an ESPN article titled “Stanford fans missing a great show,” the reporter noted thankfully that “[t]he Stanford football revolution will be televised, which is good because not a lot of people are bothering to see it live.” As recently as last year, ESPN joked that Stanford’s football dominance must “remain mostly a secret” due to underwhelming attendance. C’mon, now, Stanford fans. We don’t even pay for our tickets, while USC students fork out $155 a season, and at Michigan it’s a whopping $250. We’re unbelievably spoiled, and need to take better advantage of the resources at our disposal.
So for all those of you who bleed Cardinal red, take this opportunity to show your school pride. Put that homework aside, get on up, and get on over to Stanford Stadium. Overachievers that we may be, there’s nothing quite like having your #1 academic dream school become college football’s rising star. I, for one, will trade Fourier plots for face paint any day.
Hail, Stanford, hail!