You know that friend of yours who watches The Walking Dead? The one who's always trying to convince you to start watching it? At one point or another, this person has certainly shared this mantra: "It isn't about the zombies, it's about the people." (He's right, by the way.)
Tweak that line just a bit, and you get some key insight into the psyche of Stanford football fans as the Cardinal navigates its way through these times of trouble. "It's not about wins and losses, it's about the fans." The best evidence that the program has achieved elite status has nothing to do with the burgeoning trophy case nor the parade of four- and five-star recruits eager to come to Palo Alto. No, the true proof of the Cardinal's football-factory status comes in the discontent of the fans who are unhappy with a season which once would've been cause for celebration.
To understand what's happening in the present, we have to look to the recent and not-so-recent past. In 2001 Tyrone Willingham led the team to a 9-3 record before leaving for Notre Dame. The following season Buddy Teevens steered the ship into the ground with a 2-9 mark, a seven-win dip that was just the beginning of Stanford football's darkest era. The win totals the next four years under Teevens and Walt Harris were four, four, five, and one, but those numbers can't begin to measure the depth to which the program had sunk. Any notion that Stanford might one day become relevant again in the college football world seemed overly optimistic; fantasies about dominance wouldn't have been spoken out loud. The program was closer to Division II than it was to the Rose Bowl, and there was no hope in sight.