Walt Harris spent two seasons (2005-06) as the Director of Football and Head Coach of Stanford Football from 2005-06. Harris was hired on December 13, 2004, and the announcement that he would not return to the position came on December 4, 2006.
Harris has tutored some of the finest players in the game, has been a part of championship teams and some of the most respected programs in the nation, and has earned a reputation as one of the great innovators and teachers in football.
Harris has spent 37 seasons (1970-2006) coaching. He made a strong impression in his first season at Stanford in 2005 when he led the Cardinal to within one victory of its first bowl game since 2001 with a 5-6 overall record. Stanford was 4-4 in Pac-10 action, good for a fourth-place tie in the conference standings after the team was picked to finish no higher than ninth in the Pac-10 by the majority of prognosticators. Harris' 2006 Cardinal team finsihed 1-11 overall and 1-8 in Pac-10 play to give Harris a 6-17 overall record and a 5-12 conference mark during his two-season tenure at Stanford.
Harris has put together an impressive career both as a head and assistant coach on the college and professional levels. At each stop along the way, he has made his mark by coaching and mentoring players while building championship teams. At 60 years of age (born 11/9/46), he has coached in 14 bowl games, including six as a head coach, while tutoring 11 NFL first round draft picks and 14 NFL quarterbacks.
Some of the players Harris has coached include Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant, both wide receivers from Pittsburgh and Biletnikoff Award winners as the nation's top receiver; Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George at Ohio State; Boomer Esiason with the New York Jets; Biletnikoff Award winner Terry Glenn at Ohio State; and Lombardi Award winner Orlando Pace at Ohio State.
Harris had two previous head coaching stops prior to his arrival at Stanford. He started his head coaching career at Pacific, his alma mater, from 1989-91, and then spent eight seasons at Pittsburgh (1997-2004). His 13-year record as a head coach stands at 69-85, including an 11-24 record at Pacific, a 52-44 mark at Pitt and the 6-17 showing at Stanford.
Pittsburgh reached bowl games in six of his eight seasons, including each of the last five, to give the school its best bowl run since reaching nine in a row from 1975-83. Each of his last five bowl teams won at least seven games and combined to post an impressive 39-23 record, marking the program's best five-season stretch since 1979-83.
Harris led an impressive turnaround of the Pittsburgh football program during his tenure in the Steel City, culminating with the school's first Bowl Championship Series berth, a share of the Big East title and an 8-4 overall record in 2004. Harris, who was named the Big East Conference Coach of the Year for the second time that season, led his team to six wins in its last seven regular games to set up a Fiesta Bowl showdown against unbeaten Utah.
Harris made a splash when he arrived at Pittsburgh in 1997 and earned Big East Coach of the Year honors by leading the team to the Liberty Bowl for its first postseason berth since 1989. The Panthers had not won more than four games in each of the previous five seasons (1992-96) before Harris' arrival.
After his first season at Pitt, Harris began building the program into a perennial bowl contender. His teams did not qualify for bowl games in 1998 and 1999, but Harris was busy laying the groundwork for future success. His last five teams all competed in postseason bowl games as the Panthers took their rightful place as one of the nation's top programs.
Harris led the Panthers to back-to-back 7-5 seasons and bowl appearances in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, Pittsburgh finished 9-4 after beating Oregon State, 38-13, in the Insight Bowl. The Panthers went 8-5 after losing to Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl in 2003.
His coaching skills have been recognized by many in the football world, including The Sporting News, which ranked the Pittsburgh coaching staff led by Harris No. 3 nationally and the best in the Big East in its 2003 college football annual. In 2002, the American Football Coaches Foundation (AFCA) named him the Region I Coach of the Year.
Harris has also earned a reputation for developing talented players. At Pittsburgh, he tutored a pair of Biletnikoff Award winners for the honor given annually to the nation's top receiver in Antonio Bryant (2000) and Larry Fitzgerald (2003), who was also the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Harris has coached 11 first round NFL Draft picks, including two of his quarterbacks: Dave Wilson (1981, Illinois) and Tony Eason (1983, Illinois). Harris also coached Jack Trudeau at Illinois, who was a second round draft pick in 1986. Fifteen of Harris' quarterbacks have gone on to compete in the NFL.
All totaled, Harris' pupils include three Biletnikoff Award winners, one Heisman Trophy winner, a Heisman runner-up, a Lombardi Award winner and numerous All-Americans.
Prior to his tenure at Pittsburgh, he spent two campaigns as the quarterbacks' coach at Ohio State (1995-96) with the Buckeyes tying a then-school record with 11 victories each season. Ohio State reached the Citrus Bowl in 1995 with Buckeye players capturing some of college football's top awards (Eddie George - Heisman Trophy; Terry Glenn - Biletnikoff Award; Orlando Pace - Lombardi Award). In 1996, the Buckeyes earned a co-Big Ten title and the conference's berth in the Rose Bowl, where they went on to defeat Arizona State and finished the season ranked No. 2 in the national polls.
From 1992-94, Harris was the quarterbacks' coach for the New York Jets (1992-94) of the NFL, where he helped Boomer Esiason revitalize his career and earn a spot in the 1993 Pro Bowl.
"Walt Harris is right there with the best," said Esiason. "There's nobody better."
Harris spent six seasons from 1983-88 as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee under Johnny Majors with the Volunteers posting a 47-21-4 record and winning four of the five bowl games they played in during his stint in Knoxville. Harris was also the team's assistant head coach during his final season with the program in 1988.
"I consider Walt Harris as good a coach as there is in America," said current Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and 2003 Super Bowl winner Jon Gruden when Harris, whom Harris hired for his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1986, was hired at Stanford. "His track record with quarterbacks, receivers and offensive football teams is unprecedented, and his winning percentage at Pitt speaks for itself. Walt is a class act and Stanford should be proud to have him."
Harris began his career on the gridiron sidelines as the head coach at his prep alma mater El Camino High School in South San Francisco for one campaign in 1970. He quickly moved into the collegiate ranks and then spent 18 seasons refining his skills as an assistant before receiving his first head coaching position at his collegiate alma mater Pacific, where he spent three seasons (1989-91), improving the Tigers in each of his final two campaigns.
His stops prior to Tennessee as a collegiate assistant came at Pacific (1971-73, secondary), California (1974-77, linebackers), Air Force (spring 1978, secondary), Michigan State (1978-79, linebackers) and Illinois (1980-82, quarterbacks).
Harris graduated with a Bachelor's degree in History and Physical Education from Pacific in 1968, and earned his Master's degree in Physical Education from the Stockton school a year later. As a defensive back for Pacific from 1966-67, he played for former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, who was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers at the time. He also played for two seasons (1964-65) as a defensive back at the College of San Mateo.
Harris is the father of three children: Scott, Summer and Brett.
Career Record: 69-85 (13 Seasons)
at Pacific: 11-24 (1989-91, 3 Seasons)
at Pittsburgh: 52-44 (1997-2004, 8 Seasons)
at Stanford: 6-17 (2005-06, 2 Seasons)
The Harris File
Date of Birth:
November 9, 1946
South San Francisco, CA
El Camino (South San Francisco, CA), 1964
College of San Mateo (San Mateo, CA), 1965
Pacific, 1968 (B.A., History/Physical Education)
Pacific, 1969 (M.A., Physical Education)
Scott, Summer, Brett
DB, College of San Mateo (1964-65); DB, Pacific (1966-67)
Head Coaching Record
Liberty/Big East Coach of the Year
Insight/Region I Coach of the Year
Continental/Staff named No. 3 in country
Fiesta/First BCS game in school history
Led Stanford to within a win of first bowl since 2001
Career: 69-85 (13 Seasons) at Pacific: 11-24 (3 Seasons)
at Pittsburgh: 52-44 (8 Seasons) at Stanford: 6-17 (2 Seasons)
El Camino HS
High school alma mater
Played DB at Pacific from 1966-67
27-16-1 record in four seasons
Coached during spring only
Team went 8-3 in 1978
Coached two NFL first round QBs
Won 4 of 5 bowl games
Improved record each season
New York Jets
Coached Boomer Esiason to Pro Bowl
Won 22 games; No. 2 ranking in 1996
Six bowl appearances in 8 seasons
Led Stanford to within a win of first bowl since 2001 during the 2005 campaign