I’m feeling betrayed. The beginning of the season was full of hope—and Stanford Athletics capitalized on it. They forced us to pay for season tickets way back in February, in exchange for a “season ticket priority” gate and a great football experience.
Four games into the season, and what do we get? An unfilled stadium where priority gates means nothing—and a team that’s scored one offensive touchdown in two games.
It’s finally time to question David Shaw. It’s true: Shaw is a Stanford man through and through. He attended Stanford, played football for Stanford, and his dad passed the coaching genes on to him. Shaw has the most wins in school history and has coached a Fiesta Bowl and three Rose Bowls. Even more impressive is that the start of Shaw’s career happened in such a short timeframe.
Even so, all of this feels like it happened a lifetime ago and we are now in Phase 2 of the David Shaw era. Of Shaw’s 83 wins, more than half were with Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan. Since the 2016 Rose Bowl, Shaw hasn’t proven he can consistently win high stakes games: Stanford is 5-9 against ranked teams in that span.
To rebound, Shaw needs to seriously consider making changes in the coaching staff. I love Tavita Pritchard as a person, but the offense hasn’t gotten its job done under him. Instead of always promoting people from within, Shaw should look outside the program to bring in new blood and fresh perspectives—simply continuing the same thing isn’t working any longer. The other Pac-12 programs have caught up. We need to innovate.
But there’s a more disturbing trend: player development. In 2006, Stanford had its worst season in recent memory, going only 1-11. Each subsequent year, however, Stanford showed steady improvement until in 2009 it went to its first bowl game in eight years. The difference wasn’t because of recruiting. Players on the 2006 team came from recruiting classes that averaged 41st in the country. Players on the 2009 team also came from recruiting classes that averaged 41st in the country. The difference wasn’t recruiting—Stanford may not have been able to get the best players, but Stanford was able to develop them.
Two years later, Stanford would appear in the Fiesta Bowl. Four years after that, Kevin Hogan—only a three-star recruit—became Stanford’s winningest QB. Stanford successfully developed the three-star Hogan into an NFL talent.
Boy, how things have changed. Players recruited on this year’s team came from recruiting classes that were ranked an average 23rd. K.J. Costello was once considered one of the premiere quarterbacks in the Pac-12. Davis Mills was ranked #1 overall. Paulson Adebo was considered one of the best corners in college football. Stanford is getting some of the best talent in college football—but the talent isn’t developing. In fact, it seems to be regressing. After the 2015 regular season, Stanford demolished Iowa in the Rose Bowl. But each season since then seems to have gotten progressively worse, bringing us to where we are now.
Stanford scored 70 points in the first four games (17.5 ppg) and has given up 118 points (29.5 ppg). The only seasons this century that Stanford gave up more points through the first four games were 2002 (2-9), 2005 (5-6), 2006 (1-11), and 2007 (4-8). And the only season this century that Stanford scored fewer through four games was the 2006 season when Stanford finished 1-11.
The difference, though, is that in 2006 Stanford fans had nothing to look forward to except the tailgate. Now the expectations for Stanford are (and should be) higher. How else can we rationalize the audacity of Stanford Athletics making its fans jump through hoops in February just to get season tickets? And if the program doesn’t get fixed—and fast—they might lose more than just football games—they might also lose fans. Through thick and thin, I’ve always loved Stanford. But right now I’m feeling like Stanford doesn’t love me.