You feel so alone. At the new $22 million Arrillaga Family Sports Center, which houses the offices of most of the Cardinal's coaches, you can't sneeze without some NCAA-championship-winning coach saying gesundheit. Of Stanford's 73 national team titles, a stunning 24 have been won in this decade. "Look at Dick Gould, our men's tennis coach," says women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer. "He has 14 championship rings. He's off his fingers and onto his toes." VanDerveer, the 1996 U.S. Olympic coach, is no slacker: She has led her team to five Final Fours and won two titles.
What's the secret of attracting and retaining superb coaches? Lananna, who came to Palo Alto from Dartmouth four years ago, provides a hint: "I don't miss scraping ice off my windshield." Adds athletic director Ted Leland, "Our coaches don't have to get a kid out of bed in the morning, don't have to make sure the kid goes to class." Last year, of 875 athletes, none had to go to summer school to maintain their eligibility.
In Leland's office is a copy of Rodin's statue The Athlete. This guy looks like The Thinker, but with bigger biceps. Here at Stanford, Leland mentions offhandedly, "we have the second-largest Rodin collection in the world."
They would. Plenty of things about the school suggest an embarrassment of riches--from its 49 Atlanta Olympians to excerpts like this from the club-sports directory: "The Stanford Polo Club offers avid riders the opportunity to learn & compete in the thrilling sport of polo." (That's horse polo, as opposed to water polo, a varsity sport in which the Cardinal has won eight NCAA crowns.) We learn this about the ski club: "Our season begins in late December with a week-long, on-snow training camp at our cabin in the Lake Tahoe area." What, doesn't every college have its own ski chalet?
It would be petty, however, to begrudge the Cardinal downhillers their apres-ski massage and hot tub. Once they have toweled down and fixed themselves a nice hot toddy, they must hit the books. "Stanford is not for everyone," says VanDerveer. "But it's a great fit for a person looking for what I call the ultimate challenge--someone who is extremely talented and motivated both academically and athletically."
At Stanford the truly ultimate challenge is getting across campus without bumping into an Olympian or an NCAA champion.