ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel takes a look at the teams that played in this past season's Fiesta Bowl -- Stanford and Oklahoma State -- and points out it's not a matchup many would have predicted, say, five or six years ago.
Both teams have risen from the heap of faceless programs to the nation's elite. Notes Maisel, a Stanford graduate, "Stanford has gone to major bowls in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1969-70."
Next issue: Can they stay there?
But there's a difference between a seasonal rental and a permanent home. Climbing to the top is a story that writes itself, full of sentiment and that can-do element that resides in the American DNA. Staying there is a task devoid of the Hollywood ending.
I know that many Cardinal players and coaches are using doubts about their ability to maintain their newfound status as motivation. If you look at the roster and recent recruiting, there are plenty of reasons to believe Stanford will remain, at least, a top-25 program.
For one, the spoils of winning are adding up. Writes Maisel:
Both programs are reveling in the spoils that go to the football well-to-do. In the Pac-12 television contract that expired last season, the conference doled out money based on appearances. In 2007, the year after the Cardinal went 1-11, the program received $3 million, last in the league. In 2011, Stanford tied for second at $7.3 million.
Overall athletic fundraising at The Farm hit $50 million, including the funds to build an $18 million, 27,000-square-foot addition to the athletic administration building that will include new locker rooms, meeting rooms, coaches' offices and a player lounge -- all of the latest from the collegiate arms race catalog. The project is in the building-permit stage, and shovels may go into the ground as early as midsummer.
This isn't the Stanford of Buddy Teevens. Or even Tyrone Willingham. There is a commitment to football that wasn't there previously.
Still, as Maisel points out, climbing to the top of the mountain is a feel-good story. Staying there requires unsentimental resolve.