David Shaw's Stanford Problem, via PowerPoint

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College football programs and the schools who support them (or vice-versa), have engaged in ludicrous Heisman campaigns for more than a decade. As far as I know, though, Stanford head coach David Shaw is the first person to create a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation and display it at his weekly press conference to unsuspecting media (via Graham Watson at Dr. Saturday).

There are easy jokes to make here about Shaw, who also attended the school, doing the most Stanford thing possible by turning the sort of stumping usually limited to pretty pictures and bold statements into a midterm project for a sociology seminar. (Incidentally, he apparently did not take the advice of Edward Tufte and attempt to escape flatland.) It's an embarrassingly nerdy and weirdly cocky gesture, which happens to be standard practice on a campus where students taunt UC-Berkeley by bragging about how they'll be their graduates' bosses 15 years down the road.

Athletic directors like to hire coaches who understand the culture of a university, and there's no question that Shaw gets Stanford very well. But this presentation suggests he may not understand exactly what made his predecessor Jim Harbaugh such a great fit for the team. While staying eminently respectful of the university's academic reputation, Harbaugh also rejected the idea that student-athletes on The Farm had to be defined by their intellect. So he molded the program into a blue-collar brand where toughness, confidence, and indifference to standards of sportstmanship were encouraged.

Harbaugh succeeded in large part because he was an educated outsider. Shaw has done a great job with a flawed roster this season and should not be termed anything close to a disappointment. Still, if he's going to maintain Stanford's current place near the top of the college football hierarchy, he needs to defy the expectations people have for a Stanford man. Recruits who keep up with all the latest Microsoft Office features were probably predisposed to visit Palo Alto anyway.

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Comments

Do you think Shaw will keep it going on the farm? Full dosclosure: I am a Cal student and I was hoping that y'all wouldn't go with Shaw, try to get fancy and have it backfire. Keeping Shaw was a good football move, but not sure it's a good recruiting move.

Stanford: where we never let Word open in Document Gallery