STANFORD, Calif. (AP)The last time Stanford’s football program was searching for a coach to get it out of a rut, tapping the FCS ranks proved to be the right path.
Sixteen years after Jim Harbaugh arrived and helped build the Cardinal from a one-win team into a national power, Troy Taylor will try to do the same.
Stanford officially introduced Taylor as the replacement for David Shaw on Monday, hoping an innovative offensive coach with infectious energy can revive a program coming off back-to-back nine-loss seasons for the first time in school history.
”The potential here at Stanford is huge,” Taylor said. ”They’ve done it. They’ve had great success here. I think you got to adapt and adjust.”
The job for Taylor is perhaps more challenging than the one Harbaugh faced when he took over for the 2007 season.
After a six-year run under Harbaugh and Shaw from 2010-15 that included three Rose Bowl trips and two other major bowl bids, the Cardinal have fallen off dramatically.
Stanford went 4-8 in 2019 and then had back-to-back 3-9 records the last two years after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The recent downfall coincides with the loosening of transfer rules across major college football. The elite academic school has not been able to add to its roster through transfers as easily as most of its competition in the Pac-12 and nationally.
Taylor said he’s been given assurances that Stanford will loosen its restrictions on transfers and he will be able to supplement his roster with a handful of transfers each season as long as they are academically qualified.
”There’s players out there that fit that bill,” Taylor said. ”You just got to reach out a little bit further and travel a little bit more miles and all those things. I’ve been assured that they’re open to bringing players in through the transfer portal as long as they fit the identity of Stanford.”
Taylor spent the last four seasons as head coach at Sacramento State, leading the Hornets to the FCS playoffs three times. Sacramento State did not field a team during 2020 because of the pandemic.
Sacramento State went 30-8 with a 23-1 record in a tough Big Sky Conference under Taylor. The Hornets lost a wild quarterfinal playoff game Friday night, 66-63 against Incarnate Word.
Athletic director Bernard Muir referenced the success of Harbaugh and Bill Walsh as past great Stanford coaches without a pedigree of high-level head coaching success when they took over.
He believes Taylor has the attributes to forge a similar path.
”His name kept coming up,” Muir said. ”The more research you did and then when you actually got the chance to get in front of them, you realize his passion and his energy is exactly what we needed in order to take the program, hopefully back to where we once were and hopefully even beyond.”
Taylor was offered the job late last week but didn’t want it announced until after Sacramento State’s FCS playoff game on Friday night.
He then said goodbye to his Hornets players on Saturday morning before taking over that day at Stanford, where he spent most of the past two days meeting with the remaining players and assistants.
Now it’s off to recruiting before the early signing period next week. Taylor said he already told every player on the team and recruit who had verbally committed to Stanford that they have a place on the roster.
”It’s been a whirlwind,” he said. ”It’s been one of those things that you get a little bit of sleep and then you get up and I’m raring to go right as my eyes open up. I can’t wait to get to work.”
Taylor had a short NFL career in the early 1990s and coached as an assistant at Cal from 1996-99 before returning to the high school ranks near Sacramento. He was at Folsom High School when Beau Baldwin offered him the co-offensive coordinator job at FCS power Eastern Washington in 2016.
It’s been a rapid rise from there, with Taylor spending one season at Eastern Washington before becoming offensive coordinator at Utah for two years and then taking over Sacramento State in 2019.
Now he has his first shot at a Power Five head coaching job at age 54.
”It’s definitely been the road less traveled,” he said. ”If you look at kind of where I’ve been, it’s pretty clear it had nothing to do with money or contracts. That’s pretty clear. I’ve never chased that. For me, it’s been following my bliss. I love working with student-athletes. I love coaching football. I love competing.”
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