With three BCS bowl berths, two Pac-12 championships and a 34-6 record after three seasons, it’s no wonder Stanford head coach David Shaw would be mentioned as a candidate for brand-name coaching vacancies.
But with every rumor that Shaw quickly shoots down, he’s making a resounding statement: When he pitches Stanford as a brand-name program, he believes it.
Houston isn’t the only spot in the Lone Star State with rumored interest in the two-time Pac-12 champion. Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News wrote, "Shaw should be at the top of [Texas athletic director Steve] Patterson’s list" of replacements for resigning head coach Mack Brown.
Brown’s announced departure after 16 years leading the Longhorns is having a giant domino effect on the college football landscape. While there may be a seismic shift as a result, the Tree should be left standing.
Texas is as celebrated a brand name as there is in college football. However, through the efforts of Shaw, both as head coach and as an assistant coach under predecessor Jim Harbaugh, Stanford is establishing itself as a brand name.
And what some may see as a recruiting speed bump—Stanford's rigorous academic standards—Shaw incorporates as a selling point.
"I will never understand having the ability to go to Stanford and not," he said at Pac-12 media day in July. "Stanford University, every year—forget about athletics—is at the top of student satisfaction."
Indeed, Stanford ranked No. 1 in a Forbes ranking of top American universities published two days prior to Pac-12 media day. Student satisfaction accounted for 22.5 percent of the equation.
As an alumnus, it’s no wonder Shaw believes so firmly in the program’s potential. But perhaps more significant than his background as a student-athlete there in the 1990s is the investment he made in reviving Stanford a decade later.
The program's woes before Shaw arrived as a member of Harbaugh's staff are well documented, and the coach knows it.
After a 1-11 season in 2006, Shaw said many thought Stanford "should drop down a level in football.'' But after beating Arizona State on Dec. 7 to win its second straight Pac-12 championship, Shaw said that talk has been put to rest.
The growth of which Shaw was so integral is an interesting juxtaposition to coaching at Texas. The next Longhorns coach is inheriting a brand name, which Brown, Dana X. Bible and Darrell K. Royal established.
Stanford is the brand name Shaw helped build. And in turn, the university athletic department has reciprocated.
Stanford doesn't publicize coaching salaries, but Shaw alluded to competitive wages keeping elite assistants there.
"It says a lot about what Stanford University has done, financially making it better for the coaches so we can have continuity," he said following the Pac-12 Championship Game.
A commitment from the university begets the same from Shaw. And in turn, the Cardinal have the commitments from high-level recruits rolling in.
When Shaw gives recruits his pitch for the long-term vision of Stanford football, it's not empty rhetoric. It's a future in which he's repeatedly proven to be invested.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.