Charlie Foy wrote a beautiful piece yesterday contrasting his father's Stanford to the Stanford that Charlie now knows. He wrote about his father enduring losing season after losing season, while Charlie doesn't "remember what it feels like to lose because I was too young in the 2000s to remember." Charlie reminisces on Stanford breaking through to the Orange Bowl, and how he and has father packed up their bags for a trip to the Miami bowl because at that point they reasoned: "a BCS game was a once in a lifetime thing."
Because of this, Charlie concludes: "[H]istory is against Stanford...[W]ith a disadvantage in recruiting, Stanford is challenged more than any other team to compete with the best." After all, the 4.7% admission rate (the lowest of any school in the country) certainly excludes recruits who might play for other schools.
And while Charlie's certainly right that there are recruiting challenges that Stanford football faces, there is one benefit to recruits that only Stanford can offer, and nobody else can. Something that suddenly turns the 4.7% admission rate from a recruiting disadvantage into an enormous advantage.
And that's the Stanford experience. We are the only university in the country that offers an elite educational experience (a #4 ranking in the US News & World Report proves that), as well as an elite football experience (a #3 ranking to finish last football season proves that).
There is no other school in the country that offers this. Sure, you can go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, and play on a lousy football team. Or you can go to Alabama, Ohio State, or Oregon, and get a mediocre academic experience.
But Stanford is the only school that blends both, and ensures that you'll get the best of both worlds. Is it really any wonder that--unlike many other schools--our football players find deep academic passions outside of football? Take fifth-year WR Michael Rector, an NFL talent who also has ambitions of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. Or Josh Garnett, who last year went in the first round of the NFL Draft, but wants to be a trauma surgeon when he's done with football. (By the way, both Rector and Garnett spend their spare time at Stanford conducting stem cell research.)
Let's face it; football is never a guarantee. No matter how talented, every player is just one career-ending injury from all of their football dreams being dashed. Stanford, however, is the school that ensures you can achieve your dreams no matter the case. If you want to be an NFL success, you'll get some of the best coaching in the country and get practice in a pro-style system that readies you for the NFL. And even if the NFL dream doesn't pan out--hey--you have an extraordinary network of alumni and an exceptional academic experience to help make your dreams outside of football become reality.
Many recruits are now choosing Stanford precisely because of Stanford's unique blend of elite athletics and academics. In fact, the top QB in the country, five-star prospect Davis Mills, stated why he committed to Stanford: "Probably the biggest factor in the end was weighing out both the academics and football. You’re not going to find another school that’s ranked top five in the country in both of those. I really thought if football doesn’t work out in the end, I’m going to have something that will last me the rest of my life."
David Shaw himself has observed a shift in how recruiting has taken place: "When the process starts it might be 75-100 players [that we're recruiting]. At the end, the players are recruiting us." No wonder Stanford wins many recruiting battle that it faces nationwide, most recently taking from Nick Saban's own backyard Jack West, the top QB prospect of Alabama.
Charlie's father certainly knew a different Stanford decades ago, a Stanford that also offered an elite academic experience, but hadn't yet committed the resources to maintain an elite-level football program. But ever since Stanford's commitment to funding football (that most recently resulted in doubling David Shaw's salary), Stanford has suddenly seen a surge in football recruiting success that is commensurate with its lofty academic standards.
Stanford recruiting success is here to stay. If a football recruit with academic success gets an offer from Stanford, he'd be hard-pressed to choose any other school.