Jim Harbaugh led Stanford football out of the Pac-10 basement into the nation's elite. Now it's David Shaw's job to maintain that growth.
Stanford announced Thursday that Shaw, the Cardinal's offensive coordinator since 2007, will replace Harbaugh as the Cardinal's head coach.
A news conference is scheduled today for 4:30 p.m. ET.
Hiring Shaw won't generate much national sizzle, particularly after Harbaugh, who bolted for the San Francisco 49ers, became a skyrocketing national figure over the past two seasons. But it will be a popular choice among Stanford players, administrators and top boosters.
Further, it insures continuity for a team that is likely to be ranked in the preseason top 10, largely because of the return of quarterback Andrew Luck.
“David Shaw is exactly the right person to lead our football program at this time,” athletic director Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “David has the experience, intellect, coaching skills and organizational abilities to be a tremendous head coach. He understands and embraces the combination of world class academics and world class athletics that is required at Stanford.
“David has made a substantial contribution to the recent success of our program and our team has great confidence in him. I could not be more excited to work with David and to assist him and his staff in leading our football program to high achievement in the years ahead.”
Shaw, 38, played receiver at Stanford from 1991-94 and is the son of a former Cardinal assistant, Willie Shaw. He was picked over two other members of Harbaugh's former staff: associate head coach Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Stanford also interviewed Yale coach Tom Williams, a former Stanford linebacker, and pursued Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who opted to stay in Boise.
The first big question for today: Which members of Harbaugh's staff will remain and coach under Shaw? Roman and Fangio will not return, ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel has learned. They will have numerous opportunities elsewhere, particularly in the NFL. Either or both could follow Harbaugh to the 49ers. So who does Shaw have in mind to fill the considerable voids left behind? Both Roman and Fangio did brilliant jobs this past season.
Of immediate concern for Shaw is a major on-campus recruiting weekend. Stanford's class is ranked 17th by ESPN recruiting, and Shaw must reassure previously committed players and get the class signed intact on Feb. 2, national signing day.
Shaw has extensive NFL and college experience. He coached with Harbaugh at San Diego in 2006, but from 1997-2005 he served stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
In 2006, Stanford's offense stank: It ranked 118th in the nation -- second to last -- in both scoring (10.6 ppg) and total offense (232 yards per game).
The past two seasons, Stanford's offense has been outstanding. It ranked first in the Pac-10 in 2009 in total offense (427.6 ypg) and second in scoring (35.5 ppg). This year, despite the loss of running back Toby Gerhart, the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner up, it ranked 14th in the nation in total offense (472.5 ypg) and ninth in scoring (40.3 ppg).
Of course, deciding who deserves credit for that is difficult. Harbaugh officially called plays, but the scuttlebutt around the program was that Roman was the architect of many creative formations and blocking schemes the Cardinal used over the past two seasons. Harbaugh was always intentionally vague about how the offensive coaching functioned.
Beyond sophisticated X's and O's, Harbaugh established a tough-guy, blue-collar culture. Shaw was a part of that and surely will try to retain that culture. His first task, other than recruiting, is surrounding himself with a staff that connects with the current players.
Shaw's hiring won't reverberate nationally. The leading response will be, "Who?" Heading into the first season of the Pac-12, the general reaction from other teams is likely this: "Yahoo! No more Harbaugh!" More than a few folks will wonder if a safe, internal promotion won't lead Stanford back down in the conference pecking order.
Shaw's marching orders, therefore, are simple: Maintain the program's growth and make sure that the 12-1 finish this year does not become a one-and-done historical anomaly.