Stanford coach David Shaw is one of two first-year coaches playing in BCS bowl games. ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel points out that he and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen join a small group of coaches who have led teams to BCS bowls: Only 31 of the 120 active FBS head coaches have done so.
Both took very different paths, though both are connected by a name we are choosing -- it hurts soooo much -- not to use in a pun here: Luck.
Holgorsen got his job because of West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck. Shaw won 11 games and will play Holgorsen's old team, Oklahoma State, in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 in large part because of Luck's son, Andrew.
Shaw's transition was seamless, while Holgorsen's was not. But both faced challenges. Shaw's most notable obstacle was the highest expectations in the history of Stanford football.
The apparent seamlessness of the transition from Jim Harbaugh to Shaw can be seen in how the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award didn't name Shaw one of its 10 finalists. He was expected to win and he did. Yet Shaw didn't exactly climb on the back of his extraordinary quarterback. He had to replace four assistant coaches. He had to learn how to negotiate the difference in running a meeting room and running a team.
The adjustment for both former offensive coordinators was taking a job that was less about X's and O's and more about being a CEO of a company that generates millions. No more long hours analyzing film in isolation.
Early on, Shaw said, he would call his wife Kori and tell her he was walking out the door. "And I live 10 minutes away from here. About half an hour later, she'll [call]. 'Are you coming home or not?' I have to pass by six offices on my way out the door. Invariably four of those six wants an answer to a question."
Shaw laughed. "I've learned not to call my wife until I actually get to my car," he said.
Shaw won Pac-12 coach of the year, and just about every early indication -- including the insider scuttlebutt -- is positive about the way he handled Year 1. But the reality is the measure of Shaw will be taken post-Luck. This year he shares credit with the best college QB of a generation and Harbaugh, who rebuilt the program and created an effective locker room culture before bolting for the San Francisco 49ers.
Expectations will be lower on the Farm in 2012. But not for everyone, apparently.
Getting to a BCS bowl will provide Shaw and Holgorsen some career insurance. But there are no guarantees. Of the five previous first-year coaches who reached a BCS bowl, two were fired within five years of the bowl. Next season, without Luck at quarterback, no one will expect Stanford to have a third consecutive 11-1 regular season.
"We're not having lower expectations," he said.