Published November 20, 2014
If David Shaw has his way, he will never have to interview for another football coaching job. He is right where he has always felt he belonged: Stanford.
A head college coach at age 38, Shaw is ready to turn Stanford into a football powerhouse despite its tough academic standards.
"Since the day I started coaching, this is the job I always knew that I wanted," Shaw said. "Today's finally the day."
Shaw arrived as an assistant on the Stanford coaching staff with Jim Harbaugh four years ago with the task of rebuilding a one-win team.
He was promoted Thursday to replace Harbaugh and maintain the Cardinal's place as a national contender following their most successful season in decades.
"We've got a good football team. We've got a team that's tough, that's physical, that's eager to pick up where we left off," Shaw said during his introductory news conference. "Our schemes are going to be the same. It's going to be very similar. We're going to be aggressive on defense. We're going to get after people on defense. We're going to be aggressive on offense."
Shaw won out over fellow assistants Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, among others, to take over the program less than a week after Harbaugh left to become coach of the San Francisco 49ers last Friday.
Athletic director Bob Bowlsby said he interviewed four in-house candidates and had lengthy conversations with three others from outside the program.
"His contribution to the current state of affairs of our football program is immeasurable," Bowlsby said of Shaw. "It has been an interesting and exciting fall. This is, in my estimation, the most logical step that we can take. Having David Shaw take over the football program at this university speaks volumes about Stanford. I think it speaks volumes about the experience student-athletes have. ... He is the guy who is going to lead Stanford football for a long, long time."
Shaw could have to replace much of the coaching staff as Harbaugh is interested in bringing Fangio, Roman and others with him to the NFL. Shaw acknowledged there would be changes but wouldn't elaborate.
The job Shaw inherits is a much more desirable one than Harbaugh took over after Stanford went 1-11 in 2006 under Walt Harris.
The Cardinal improved each season under Harbaugh, making a bowl game in his third year and going 12-1 this past season, capped by a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. That helped Stanford finish fourth in the final AP poll, its best ranking since the unbeaten 1940 team finished No. 2.
"Take the 2010 season — outstanding, phenomenal — we're going to put it in a box. We're going to put a ribbon on it, we're going to put it up on a shelf for everybody to admire," Shaw said. "We're going to let everybody else admire and talk about how great it was. Our goals are not that. We're not done yet. We did not win our conference. Oregon did that. Now, going into the new era of the Pac-12. We have the desire to be the first Pac-12 champions."
The Orange Bowl trophy was on display for Shaw's formal introduction, a day before some 20 recruits will be on campus for visits. It was important for Bowlsby to get the head coach in place before this key recruiting period.
Expectations will be high again next season following last week's decision by Heisman Trophy runner-up and Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Andrew Luck to return for another season.
"We've got a pretty good quarterback you might have heard of," Shaw said.
Luck set school records for TD passes (32), completion percentage (70.7 percent) and passing efficiency (170.2) this season. With him at quarterback, the Cardinal are expected to be highly ranked again next season.
Luck was one of a large number of players who spoke to Bowlsby about the job over the past week. The quarterback said he appreciated Bowlsby hearing out the players — and he is thrilled not to have to learn a new play book heading into spring ball.
"He's a Stanford man. I've known that since he was recruiting me coming out of high school — a deep, abiding love and respect for Stanford. You can really tell that," Luck said. "He's going to do a wonderful job with this program and the players are behind him 100 percent."
Shaw is the son of Willie Shaw, a former Stanford and longtime NFL assistant. David was a receiver at Stanford from 1991-94 under Dennis Green and Bill Walsh. Willie Shaw was a finalist for the head coaching job when Walsh was hired for the second time in 1992.
"I will do what I can to help this place be successful," Shaw said. "Two years of good football is not enough."
Shaw was an assistant in the NFL for Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore, before joining Harbaugh as an assistant at the University of San Diego. As passing game coordinator and receivers coach, he helped lead the Toreros to an 11-1 record and the top marks in what was then Division I-AA in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense.
He joined Harbaugh at Stanford the following year and has coached receivers and running backs, while also serving as offensive coordinator the past four years.
How will he differ from the intense, ultra-competitive Harbaugh?
"Schematically, you'll see in September," Shaw said with a smile.
Shaw's father and mother, Gay, his wife, Kori, sister, Tawnya, and two of his three children were on hand to support and cheer him Thursday — along with former Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham and a number of Cardinal players. Luck was in class and did not attend, but later turned up to talk about Shaw.
"As far as what Stanford needs, we're not going to miss a beat," cornerback Michael Thomas said. "He knows Stanford. He knows the system. The offense will be the same and he said he will run the same defense. We knew coach Shaw would be a great head coach. We're ready for the next chapter."
The Cardinal showed immediate improvement, winning four games in 2007 and five the following season, before breaking through with Luck and 2009 Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart last season.
Stanford set a single-season scoring record with 461 points in 2009 and topped that with 524 this season.
The Cardinal lose three starting offensive linemen, fullback Owen Marecic and leading receivers Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen. But they have plenty of other key offensive players returning, including 1,000-yard rusher Stepfan Taylor, running back Anthony Wilkerson, speedy receiver Chris Owusu and tight end Coby Fleener.
"I'm delighted," Stanford President John Hennessy said. "We couldn't have made a better choice."
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.