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Secrets To Stanford Football's Emergence As A Football Powerhouse

What can the Boston College football program take away from Stanford's rise from Pac-10 punching bag to football powerhouse?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off back-to-back-to-back BCS bowl games, including victories in the 2011 Orange Bowl and 2013 Rose Bowl, it's easy to forget that Stanford Cardinal football went 1-11 just a few years ago. Or that the Cardinal has had just four winning seasons over the last 10 seasons, with each of those winning seasons coming in the last four years.

Forbes' Alicia Jessop more closely examined Stanford's rise from Pac-10 punching bag to football powerhouse in an article entitled "The Secrets Behind Stanford's Emergence as a Football Powerhouse." The full article is definitely worth a read. While none of these "secrets" are ground breaking by any means -- head coach David Shaw lists "recruiting, winning and money" as the list of factors leading to the Cardinal's success -- there may be a few that Brad Bates and Steve Addazio can heed as they look to turn around the Boston College football program.

Recruiting to your strengths

Early on, Harbaugh heavily recruited tight ends, fullbacks and offensive linemen in an era of air it out, spread offenses. Harbaugh was able to successfully rebuild the Cardinal offensive line, taking a unit which ranked 115th in the country in sacks allowed in 2007 (4.00 sacks/game) to one of the best OLs in the country. In subsequent seasons, Stanford OL would rank 45th (1.75), 2nd (0.62), 2nd (0.46), 7th (0.85) and 38th (1.36) nationally in sacks allowed. Running back Toby Gerhart nearly won the Heisman Trophy in 2009; in no small part due to the newfound success of the Cardinal line.

Rebuilding the talent starts and ends with rebuilding in the trenches. Hopefully the former OL coach turned HC is able to makes strides in restoring Boston College's reputation as O-Line U.

Changing the attitude

When you lose three out of every four games as Boston College football has over the last two years (6-18), losing becomes a habit. Sometimes you need a change of attitude and an injection of new energy to break free of the vicious cycle.

"When Jim came, the first thing we changed is how we practice. Everything was a competition. We awakened the competitive spirit that existed here, but that had gone dormant. The team wasn't bad; they just lost a lot of close games. Our idea was, if we got into a close game, we were going to do what we needed to do win. That attitude adjustment helped start the process."

Expanding recruiting reach

As Stanford began to win more games and get on national TV more, the program gained greater exposure in other areas of the country. While Stanford recruited nationally, they began exploring more areas such as Georgia, Texas and DC / Virginia. Harbaugh managed to pull a QB named Andrew Luck out of Texas. Addazio is off to a good start, but if Eagles football is really going to turn the corner, the new staff has to rebuild recruiting pipelines outside of New England. Not only does Addazio have to establish pipelines elsewhere, but he also faces a massive rebuild job in mending relationships and connections in the Northeast.

More money

Pretty simple. Stanford opened up the checkbook and increased its recruiting spend by 63 percent in year one under Harbaugh and then-Athletic Director, now Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Over the last five years, the Cardinal's recruiting spending has increased by 25.2 percent.

Recruiting isn't the only area where Stanford increased spending. The program increased spending on coaches after they noticed coaches leaving due to the Bay Area's high cost of living. Stanford now pays closer to scale and even offers on-campus housing. The program is also expanding its football weight room and building a new players' lounge and new coaching offices.

While both Boston College and Stanford don't publicly report financials as private schools, all schools that participate in federal student aid programs and have an intercollegiate athletics program report comparable financials to the Department of Education. Here are select metrics from the Equity in Athletics data set.

Stanford Boston College Delta
Men's Teams Recruiting Expenses - All Sports $803,544 $555,652 $247,892
Total Revenues by Team - Football $25,564,646 $21,674,975 $3,889,671
Total Expenses by Team - Football $18,738,731 $17,987,934 $750,797
Average Annual Institutional Salary per Head Coach $295,807 $253,835 $41,972
Average Annual Institutional Salary per Assistant Coach $132,992 $119,144 $13,848

These figures aren't all that different but Stanford does spend more on men's sports across the board. SU also attributes more revenue to the football team than BC, a gap that should continue to grow with the launch of the Pac-12 Network. Will BC similarly increase spending and invest in turning the football program around?

Proper Leadership

While not mentioned specifically in the article, it certainly doesn't hurt when your program is led by a Super Bowl-caliber head coach and a future BCS AQ conference commissioner.

Thanks to reader Ed for the link.