Monday, November 29, 2010

Memo to Stanford Faculty and Administration re: Harbaugh

Stanford University clings to the principle of excellence.  When it hires a full professor, that individual is reckoned to be in the top three in his/her field.  Admission to Stanford is highly competitive, with one in thirteen applicants admitted to the freshman class.  Stanford routinely wins more NCAA championships than any other university despite its relatively small undergraduate student body.

Except in football!

I’ve been watching Stanford football since 1971.  This year’s team is the best I’ve seen, compiling the most wins in Stanford history.  Coach Jim Harbaugh is probably the most coveted coach in the nation for college and pro teams looking for new leadership.  He is likely to receive several multi-million dollar offers to leave Stanford and take up a new head coaching position.

When a professor receives an offer from another university, Stanford usually tries to match or beat that offer.  Stanford tries to attract the best students by matching or exceeding financial offers they receive from other schools.

But Stanford does not treat its football coach the same way.  Paying millions to a football coach, even one of the top three in the country, is not in keeping with Stanford’s educational values, even though Stanford football competes against top national programs.  Don’t the players deserve the same first-rate instruction in football that students receive in the classroom?

Why this departure from excellence?  I suspect it is faculty jealousy over highly-paid athletic coaches at an Ivy League quality academic institution.  Harvard, Yale, and Princeton do not pay their coaches seven-figure salaries, but neither do their football teams play national powers.

I have little doubt that John Arrillaga would happily pick up whatever cost it would take to keep Harbaugh at Stanford.  Barring a change in policy, Stanford is not likely to try to match or beat a multi-million dollar offer.   Too bad.  Maybe the students can start a petition drive to help keep him.

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