Teevens Bringing the Fun 'N' Gun to Stanford

Jan. 8, 2002

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

Stanford, Calif. - Buddy Teevens wants Stanford football to be a whole lot more Fun 'N' Gun.

Eight days after Tyrone Willingham left for Notre Dame, Teevens was introduced Wednesday as the Cardinal's new coach.

After spending the past three seasons as a top assistant to Florida's Steve Spurrier, Teevens - a former head coach at Tulane, Dartmouth and Maine - has a clear vision of the changes he plans at Stanford.

'We'd like to be a wide-open throwing outfit,' Teevens said. 'It will be a lot of fun to play, and a lot of fun to watch. ... The history here, from (former coach) John Ralston right on through, has been good quarterbacks and good receivers. We want to get back to that.'

Stanford athletic director Ted Leland, who hired Teevens at Dartmouth in 1987, signed his longtime friend to a five-year contract and charged him with improving a program that was well-respected but only moderately successful under Willingham.

'It's an opportunity to get even better,' Leland said. 'Buddy is a great progression. He's the next step for us.'

Looking fidgety but excited in a Stanford tie just three days after his first interview with Leland, Teevens said more in his first news conference than the taciturn Willingham would offer for weeks at a time.

Whether Teevens can beat Willingham's results on the field will depend largely on the success of his offense - and his success in finding players capable of running a byzantine offense while also excelling academically at one of the nation's elite universities.

'We've got a bunch of really bright guys on this campus, and we'll go out and find some more,' he said. 'If they can figure out Stanford physics and Stanford calculus, they can handle Stanford football.'

In his first afternoon on the job, Teevens proposed a remarkable change in philosophy for a team that often played it safe during Willingham's seven seasons. Stanford led the Pac-10 in rushing offense and rushing defense last season on the way to a 9-3 record.

Under Teevens, who will meet with the team for the first time on Thursday, the Cardinal will throw the ball early and often. Teevens admits he grew into this mindset under Spurrier, whose Fun 'N' Gun offense has been one of college football's most exciting and complicated in the previous 12 years.

Teevens thought he knew about offensive football before his three years under Spurrier - but his outlook changed when he heard Spurrier call a strange play during a 1999 game at the Orange Bowl.

'I was looking at my (play) sheets and saying, 'We don't have that play!' ' Teevens said. 'He said, 'I know. We just made it up.' '

Teevens recalled occasions when the coaches and players formulated plays before games or even at halftime. Such successful improvisation requires a solid structure, and Teevens plans to provide it, starting with the staff he expects to hire - including a defensive coordinator who will be granted considerable autonomy - within the next week or so.

Though Leland was sorry to see Willingham go, he sees an opportunity to improve the school's 44-36-1 record in Willingham's tenure. Given their shared Ivy League history, Leland also knows Teevens can thrive in a challenging academic environment.

'Of all the coaches I've ever hired, I don't know if I've ever seen a better fit between a man and an institution than I do here,' Leland said.

Teevens had success at Maine and Dartmouth, where he led the Big Green to Ivy League titles in 1990 and 1991, but he also endured the pain of five unsuccessful years at Tulane, where he had a 10-45 record from 1992-96 while struggling to rebuild the Green Wave.

Asked if he had learned anything from his previous head coaching experiences, Teevens replied: 'I wouldn't recommend the firing process to anyone, but the recycling process is good.'

Leland compared Teevens' history to that of Dennis Green, who struggled as a head coach at Northwestern before leading Stanford and the Minnesota Vikings to success.

Stanford's players were shocked when Willingham abruptly abandoned the school on New Year's Eve. Leland asked three key returning players - quarterback Chris Lewis, offensive tackle Kirk Chambers and defensive tackle Matt Leonard - to help with the selection process by interviewing the finalists.

As soon as Lewis, who holds the California high school record for touchdown passes, heard Teevens' vision for Stanford's offense, he sat up in his chair.

'Everybody in the country will know about us now,' Lewis said. 'The people in our program right now are a lot more athletic than we've had in the past. We want to fly around. This is just taking the ball and chain off of us and letting us go.

'He's the final key that we need to push ourselves up as far as the national spotlight. Spurrier is gone, but his legacy lives on in college football. It's just on the West Coast.'

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