On Tuesday afternoon, the Stanford football program officially jumped the shark.
How exactly did the Cardinal leap from the land of the normal to the realm of the ridiculous? Because on Tuesday, an anonymous donor elected to endow the position of offensive coordinator for the Stanford football program and to forever call the job “The Andrew Luck Directorship of Offense.”
Although all of Stanford’s 85 football scholarships are endowed (and therefore named after the people who endowed them), and David Shaw is officially titled “The Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football,” I was left scratching my head at the new “Andrew Luck Directorship of Offense.” Frankly, I didn’t know what to think, other than “I guess it’s kind of nice to have something that isn’t named after Arrillaga on this campus.”
But I was left with one thought that stood out above all the others: This is the kind of move that only happens at a football-mad program. This stuff only happens at places like SEC schools, where everything is named after somebody. At places that are monuments to college football, absurd tributes become normal. For example, Oklahoma has bronze sculptures of the Sooner players that won the Heisman Trophy. Alabama has its own bronze sculptures of coaches that won national titles with the Crimson Tide. Tim Tebow’s speech to the media (“You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God Bless.”) after losing to Ole Miss in 2008 is already immortalized on a plaque next to the entrance to the Florida weight room. But something like this is utterly bizarre for Stanford.
Naturally, Luck and company said all the right things about the Directorship, even though the endowment is, at best, peculiar. Really, who on earth would choose to endow the offensive coordinator position—a coach that certainly makes a couple hundred thousand dollars a year—and name it after a player who hasn’t even graduated yet, no matter how good he was?
And yet, despite the craziness of its all, I think this endowment says promising things about Stanford football, and particularly the fans of Stanford football.
At those big football schools, donors line up year after year to contribute in any way possible to the continued success of the program, and it’s encouraging to see fans doing that now. Just a few years ago, it was hard to get people to show up for games against top-15 opponents. Now, they’re packing the stands (more than one sellout a year!) and serving up lavish endowments. It’s exciting that fans are becoming engaged with the program in a way like never before.
However, this kind of crazed fanhood isn’t all good. For example, sometimes these big donors/rabid fans will go too far in exercising their authority, like back in 2008 at Auburn University. After the hated Alabama Crimson Tide crushed the Tigers en route to the 2009 Sugar Bowl, boosters called for the firing of head coach Tommy Tuberville, who had compiled an 85-40 career record with the Tigers and taken Auburn to eight straight bowl games. You read that right—an 85-40 record still wasn’t good enough to stop the boosters from doing their best impersonation of the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland.”
That said, I don’t ever envision that happening on the Farm—it would truly shock me if Stanford boosters demanded a coach be fired after making eight straight bowl games. Thankfully, Stanford is a place with a little less ferocious perspective than the citizens of football-crazed Alabama.
All in all, though, I think that this “Andrew Luck Directorship of Offense” is a sign of good things to come for the Stanford football team and its fans. People are taking Stanford football seriously again (maybe a little too seriously), and the program is reaping some benefits. I know I’ll be pleased if the University maintains its commitment to having a good football team well into the future because it’s made my (rapidly expiring) time here incredibly fun and memorable.
So even though Stanford football might be entering a wild new domain of boosters pouring money into the program, I’m not afraid of the consequences.
And who knows, maybe someday I’ll have enough money to endow a position in my own name—“The Jack Blanchat Grand Czar of Defense” does have a nice ring to it.
Jack Blanchat memorized every word of that Tebow speech. Send your thoughts to the Arkansas native at blanchat “at” stanford.edu or follow him on Twitter “at” jmblanchat.