Stanford football claims one national title â€“- in 1926 under the leadership of Pop Warner. Itâ€™s had its moments in the ensuing decades: sporadic top 10 finishes while churning out some great players (John Elway, Jim Plunkett).
That said, itâ€™s still most famous for a game when their trombone player got laid out in the end zone.
So these are uncharted waters for Stanford. The 12-1 Cardinal returns the best quarterback in the country in Andrew Luck, who turned down the No. 1 spot in the NFL draft to return to the Farm. It is a sure bet to be ranked in the preseason top 10 (or better). It boasts a favorable schedule â€“- Oregon, Cal, Washington and Notre Dame are all at home.
It all adds up to a once in a, well, century (?) shot at a national title.
Except for one problem, coach Jim Harbaugh, the architect, brains and driving force behind this
transformation left to coach the San Francisco 49ers.
So Stanford did the predictably smart thing Thursday when it promoted offensive coordinator David Shaw to head coach. Absent landing a dream candidate such as Boise Stateâ€™s Chris Petersen, who again declined to leave his blue kingdom, the proper decision was to hire from within.
You want everything to remain as consistent as possible. You want Luck to thrive as best he can. You want to keep as much of the touted recruiting class (current Rivals.com rank: 13th) as possible.
When you finally have things going in the championship direction, you donâ€™t change course and bring in an outside perspective, a new way of doing things.
Is Shaw, who has no experience as a head coach, the best candidate for the long-term? Who knows? And, at this point, who cares?
If a school was ever going to be short-sighted, itâ€™s Stanford heading into the 2011 season.
This isnâ€™t Alabama or Florida or Oklahoma. Youâ€™ve got one shot here. Donâ€™t screw it up. Go all in. Try to ride the wave to a rare chance at everything.
â€śDavid has made a substantial contribution to the recent success of our program and our team has great confidence in him,â€ť athletics director Bob Bowsley said.
And yes, that was probably enough.
Shaw, a 38-year old former Stanford wide receiver, may turn out to be the long-term solution.
He spent nine years as a NFL assistant. Heâ€™s been working under Harbaugh, a master motivator and tactician, since 2006 when they were both at the University of San Diego. As an offensive coordinator, Stanford averaged 40.3 points a game last year. Shaw has shown the work ethic and personality to recruit well nationally, where heâ€™s often been the point man.
Not a bad resume. And none of that was the point today.
Heâ€™s the closest Stanford can get to Harbaugh for the immediate future. With Andrew Luck, a sweet schedule and a ton of momentum all heading into next fall, that had to be the biggest concern of this job search.
This isnâ€™t the time to change a thing; Stanford might actually have its Ducks in a row.
-- Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports national columnist.