Early Sunday morning, David Shaw stepped to the podium and announced a decision that had been rumored but still qualified as a shock: He had coached his final game at Stanford.
Shaw, the team's all-time winningest coach with 96 victories, resigned shortly after finishing his 12th season leading his alma mater. He reached his decision during Thanksgiving, saying it simply was time to move on and spend more time with his family and pursuing other interests. Stanford's recent struggles -- the team recorded consecutive 3-9 seasons and owns a 14-28 record since the start of 2019 -- didn't drive Shaw's decision, although he acknowledged the challenges that the program faces in the current environment with the transfer portal and name, image and likeness.
Stanford will have a hard time finding a better fit than Shaw, who adores the university and its mission. He led the Cardinal to three Pac-12 championships, two Rose Bowl titles and five AP top-12 finishes in his first six seasons. He recruited well throughout his tenure, produced plenty of NFL players and, until recently, challenged consistently in the Pac-12.
But Stanford must pivot to the realities of the current environment. The portal has hurt a school that struggles to add transfers but can lose them. Shaw acknowledged that Stanford often moves methodically, and believes the school can make the necessary "growth" to once again compete at a high level.
The next coach will play a big role in helping Stanford adjust. Shaw said athletic director Bernard Muir will have plenty of interested candidates, although when it comes to realistic options, the list is a bit shorter than it is for most other programs. Stanford needs a coach who is comfortable in a rigorous academic setting and can recruit nationally but ideally has some ties to the West Coast and the Pac-12.
Here's a look at eight candidates Stanford could consider to replace Shaw in 2023.