Bowlsby expects Harbaugh to stay for ‘foreseeable future’
Stanford’s football team is officially headed to the BCS.
The Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) accepted an invitation to the Discover Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 3 at 5 p.m. PST. Stanford will face off against Virginia Tech (11-2), the champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hokies defeated Florida State on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game to secure that conference’s automatic BCS bid.
“I’m very excited about playing in the Orange Bowl,” said Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. “We know the kind of season Virginia Tech has had, with 11 straight wins and tremendous on both sides of the ball.”
“We are thrilled as a team to be going to the Orange Bowl,” said senior wide receiver Ryan Whalen. “We’re really excited for this opportunity.”
Stanford finished fourth in the final BCS standings, guaranteeing it an at-large berth to a BCS bowl despite not winning the Pac-10.
Despite the Orange Bowl’s prestige, some Stanford fans had hopes for the Cardinal to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, which has much more history for Stanford’s football program and traditionally matches the Pac-10 and Big Ten conference champions. While Stanford did not win the Pac-10 this year, it could have still gone to the Rose Bowl since Oregon is playing in the national championship game.
“I feel like if we had still gone to the Rose Bowl and not won the Pac-10 it would have been a little weird,” said senior defensive tackle Sione Fua.
“Oregon won the conference championship, so I don’t think [the Rose Bowl] was something that was earned,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no disappointment there.”
Harbaugh and the players also reflected on Stanford’s transformation into a BCS-caliber program over Harbaugh’s four-year tenure.
“Coming in, the guys here didn’t know what [a winning culture] was — what it was like to win and what it was like to win consistently,” Whalen said. “That’s not something that’s going to occur overnight…I think that’s the biggest thing — learning how to win, learning how to finish games.”
The location of the Orange Bowl may make it difficult for Stanford to sell its allotment of tickets. Over the course of the season, much was made of the fact that Stanford Stadium usually does not sell out, even for games against major opponents.
Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby attempted to address some of those concerns.
“We’ve got an obligation for 17,500 tickets by contract,” he said. “Beyond that, we didn’t get into a lot of specifics.”
“We’ll see how the sales go,” he continued. “We have to play that by ear as the next month unfolds.”
Bowlsby also discussed the fact that Stanford’s alumni base is somewhat dispersed around the country, so regular season attendance may not be a good indication of bowl-game attendance.
“It isn’t quite like a state university, where you’re going to pack up a lot of people from the locale and go,” he said. “I think we’ll sell a lot of tickets.”
Harbaugh’s future at Stanford also came up, as speculation has been rampant that he will leave Stanford at the end of the season to take a higher-paying head coaching job at another college or with an NFL franchise. Bowlsby expressed confidence that Harbaugh would remain on the Farm.
“We have to be prepared to make preemptive offers and do the things that it takes,” he said. “We have a proposal in front of Jim and he’s indicated that he plans to accept it. He’s got this year and four more left on his contract, and I expect that he’ll be our coach for the foreseeable future.”
Bowlsby declined to comment further on the subject.