Following a loss to BYU to end the season, Stanford head coach David Shaw announced that he was stepping down from his position. Here are five potential head coach candidates for the Stanford Cardinal.
1. Mike Elko
Mike Elko just completed his first season as a head coach at Duke. After not being projected to make a bowl game, the Blue Devils finished the season at 8-4. Before his time at Duke, he worked at Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Bowling Green as a defensive coordinator, where he found success. Before that, he worked at the FCS-level as a defensive assistant, but was actually a former college quarterback at Penn.
Stanford is not an easy job with the academic restrictions. Elko has a taste of what that might be like from his time at Duke, but also from his time at Notre Dame. It might be odd to leave a job after just one season coached, but Stanford could provide an opportunity to be more consistently competitive if the job is done right. With the turnaround Elko did in year one with the Blue Devils, Elko will start getting looked at by bigger programs now.
2. Mike Bloomgren
Bloomgren has been the head coach of Rice for the last five seasons. Seen as one of the toughest jobs in the FBS, Bloomgren has shown improvement over his time there. The Owls won two games in his first season, but have won five this season and may go to a bowl game. Before his time at Rice, Bloomgren was an offensive assistant and eventually a coordinator for the Cardinal. When he was there, Stanford had multipe seasons where they won at least 10 games.
As mentioned, getting someone who is familiar with the academic restrictions would be ideal. Getting someone who has worked for the program before is also an advantage. Although Bloomgren still hasn’t made a bowl game, he has done a great job at Rice. The Cardinal should pick up the phone and at least give him an interview.
3. Chris Petersen
Petersen has worked as a television analyst for Fox since stepping away from the Washington job. He led Washington to a College Football Playoff and posted a 55-26 record in five seasons at the school. Before that he was the head coach at Boise State. He spearheaded that program to tons of success as a Cinderella team. The Broncos were 92-12 over eight seasons in Boise. He also spent time as an assistant at Oregon and Pittsburgh.
It struck many from the outside as odd that Petersen stepped away from coaching Washington. He wanted to work on healing and recovery, which he has now had some time to do. If he wants to get back into coaching, this might be a good time, as he is 58 years old. He has proven to win despite being an underdog and in the Pac-12. Petersen should get a call and see if Stanford can coax him back to the sideline.
4. Derek Mason
Mason is currently the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. He also has stops as an assistant at Auburn, Stanford, Utah, Ohio and in the NFL. From 2014-2020 Mason was the head coach at Vanderbilt. He posted a 27-55 record with the Commodores.
Not finding success at Vanderbilt is not indicative of someone being a bad coach. The job is a tough one with their own academic restrictions and the fact that they play in the SEC. Given more resources, even with the same academic pressures, Mason can succeed. He has time on the staff at Stanford so he knows the program well and spent much of his time as an assistant out west where he will have recruiting ties.
5. Bronco Mendenhall
Bronco Mendenhall is another candidate who decided to step away from coaching. He most recently coached Virginia where he spent six seasons, going 36-38. Before that, he coached BYU for 11 seasons with a 135-81 record. He has extensive experience out west, including having assistant jobs with Oregon State, Northern Arizona and New Mexico.
While not the same job, there are similarities to the Virginia job and the Stanford job. Mendenhall could thrive there, much like he did at BYU. He stepped away from Virginia to move to Montana, but has left some hints that he may want to return to coaching. If one year off is good enough for him, Mendenhall would be a solid hire for the Cardinal.
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