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Beyond the glory: Cardinal coach Buddy Teevens tackles life off the gridiron

Although his career on the Farm may depend on it, head football coach Buddy Teevens believes his existence would be a "shallow" one if all he talked about was a game. He is a friend to those who believe in the importance of education, respect and integrity in athletics and a foe of the idea of winning at all costs.

Going beyond just X's and O's, Teevens discussed the three F's of his life -- faith, family and friends -- during his noontime "What Matters to Me and Why" talk in Memorial Church on April 28. Through two bumpy seasons at the helm of the Cardinal, Teevens has relied on all three of those pillars as he pursues his goal of leading a football team that is successful both on the field and in the classroom.

The father of two teenagers, the 48-year-old Teevens was introduced by his older child, Lindsay, a senior at Palo Alto High School and a star volleyball player. He began his talk by describing the importance of family. A Boston native, Teevens is one of nine children born to a middle-class Irish Catholic family. He dotted his speech with family anecdotes that illustrated the lessons of sharing and giving that his parents instilled in him.

One of the more comical incidents happened at the end of a family trip to the petting zoo, when Teevens' father loaded up all the kids in their station wagon and pulled away. A man started chasing the car and at the next stop sign, Teevens' father finally pulled over. The breathless man responded that his daughter was in the car. The children did not see it as anything out of the ordinary.

"For us, she was just another person and just a nice kid, so we didn't mind having her along," said Teevens. "Giving and not being selfish are hard for kids, but both are things that my parents always stressed."

Teevens added that people and teaching were of paramount importance to him, and both principles coalesced when he left home to attend Dartmouth College, where he graduated with a degree in history in 1979.

"Going to Dartmouth was an awakening for me. I was in an environment with sophisticated, intelligent and wealthy people," said Teevens. "One of the main things I was introduced to was diversity. I grew up in an all-white environment and didn't know any African Americans or Asian Americans. Fortunately, I was raised by my family in such a manner that everyone was the same."

Teevens said he never stuck to just one group of friends, although he excelled in athletics while in college. A three-year letterman quarterback, Teevens led Dartmouth to the Ivy League title in 1978 and the next year lettered in ice hockey when the team finished third in the NCAA Championships.

He stressed his basic belief that people are good, a maxim he came to after hitchhiking all over the United States from Maine to the University of Florida and later in Europe. He admitted that sometimes his trust was betrayed, but said that those incidents served as exceptions rather than rules.

Teevens left the Ivy League for DePauw University in Indiana, where he met his wife, Kirsten, for a running backs coach position that paid only $900 a year. Teevens later moved on to Boston University, the University of Maine and eventually head coaching positions at Dartmouth, where the team won back-to-back Ivy League titles, and Tulane. Teevens also worked under coach Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida before coming to Stanford.

Teevens explained his role at the university as both a student and a teacher. He finds the opportunity to learn from everyone from faculty members to staff and says he both teaches and learns a lot from his players. Teevens preaches mental and physical toughness and tells his players to follow the golden rule and not to embarrass themselves or the program, both lessons derived from his father, who taught Teevens "one's reputation cannot be repaired."

During the question-and-answer period, Teevens had to field a couple of questions about the performance of the football team – including how Teevens deals with the public criticism disciplinary action taken against his players.

"I’m human, so some of it hits home," Teevens said of criticism. "I have a good letter pile and a bad letter pile. I will call people directly and talk to them about what we do and why we do it. I appreciate and respect that we have avid fans who want to win."

Teevens also tried to explain how the team dealt with football players who have been arrested. "To me, the reputation of our team is of foremost importance," he said. "I talked to the entire team and told them to apply the tenets of right and wrong that you believe in. I hope that the rest of the team sees that this is serious."

For those who wonder what is in store for the Cardinal on the field, Teevens says to expect excellence.

Buddy Teevens