Stanford touts degree's worth to recruits

Stanford doesn’t recruit like everyone else, largely because the university’s academic standards won’t allow it. Head coach David Shaw and his staff cast a national net. The 2011 roster features players from 26 states.

The Cardinal coaches, rather than view the high admissions hurdle as a hindrance, try to use the hurdle to their advantage. They tell their prospects that they can get to the NFL from Palo Alto. But a recruiting letter sent by Stanford last month provides a glimpse into how the program bets that its prospects will think beyond a pro football career.

The Stanford football office sent a one-page letter to recruiting prospects last month detailing the financial worth of a Stanford degree, with a nice football twist.

Payscale.com lists the annual average salary of “mid-career” (15 years out of school) alumni of major universities. Stanford took the list and applied it to the final 2010 AP Top 25, in which the Cardinal finished No. 4.

The average salary of a Stanford mid-career alum is $119,000. Only two other schools in the final ranking -- No. 15 Virginia Tech ($94,700) and No. 21 Texas A&M ($93,300) -- came within $30,000. Stanford averaged $40,133 more than the other top 10 teams, and $39,633 more than the rest of the Top 25.

“Many of the young men we recruit are already well accomplished and have high aspirations for football and for life after football,” head coach David Shaw said. “We give them information on NFL draft numbers as well as our graduation rates and even salary survey info like this one from Payscale.com.”

Here’s how the Cardinal pitched the information in the letter:

“While the complete college experience sets Stanford apart, there is no question that a Stanford degree later will provide you earning power which can forever change your life. The average Stanford graduate pulls down $40,000 (ital)per year(close) above the grads of the rest of the Top 25 college football programs in the country. Compounded over a career, this represents an advantage of at least $1-2 million. That’s just the salary advantage for the average Stanford grad, and there has been nothing average to this point in your life. Stanford Varsity Athlete alumni are the most sought-after employees across all sectors of the economy in every corner of the country.”

Are 17-year-olds sophisticated enough to a) digest that information and b) be swayed by it?

“The young men we recruit and their families really appreciate this information,” Shaw said.

The answer will come on the first Wednesday of Feb. 2012 -- signing day.