LOS ANGELES -- David Shaw performs many functions as Stanford's highly successful football coach. He's a strategist and recruiter, disciplinarian and fundraiser. He's a mentor to his staff, the face of the program and an ambassador for the world-renowned university.
And if that's not enough, the 40-year-old can add this to his plate: torchbearer for African-American coaches.
With his eloquent style, sterling reputation and soaring victory total -- his two-year record: 22-4 -- Shaw seems ideally suited to be an agent of change in a sport notorious for a lack of diversity in its upper ranks.
But it's not a role he has actively pursued. Instead, Shaw is focused on winning games for his alma mater -- next up is Tuesday's Rose Bowl -- and upholding the school's commitment to integrity and academic success.
"As I get older, I might think about it more," he said, "but I'm not ready to be a flag bearer."
His role mirrors the one filled a generation ago by Tyrone Willingham, who led Stanford to the 2000 Rose Bowl, when there were even fewer black coaches.
"The fact that I'm on the younger side and an African-American coach and hopefully viewed as competent is a positive thing," said Shaw, who was recently named Pac-12 Conference coach of the year for the second straight season.
"But it's important to represent myself and the university in the right manner, and if that helps, great."
It does help, according to Jon Embree. To the surprise of many, Embree was fired last month by Colorado after his second year at his alma mater. Embree's termination, which came after a 1-11 season, left Shaw as the only black football coach in the Pac-12.
Nationally, African-Americans fill about 10 percent of the 120 head coaching positions in major college football. In college basketball, the percentage is close to 20.
"I think David's success will help," said Embree, who noted the potential impact of two other black coaches, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Louisville's Charlie Strong. "All three had really good years and that will continue to help the cause, so to speak.
"I've spent some time with David. I found him to be very bright and very comfortable with who he is and his style of coaching."
Shaw's approach has been shaped, in large part, by two men with a passion for the advancement of minority coaches:
The first is his father, Willie, a longtime assistant coach whose career included stints with Stanford and the Raiders.
The other is Bill Walsh, who created a minority coaching internship in the NFL during his legendary run with the 49ers and coached Shaw at Stanford in the early 1990s.
Shaw used Walsh's program to secure an internship with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997 and so impressed a young assistant named Jon Gruden that Gruden gave Shaw a full-time position when he took charge of the Raiders.
Shaw spent eight more years in the NFL before joining Jim Harbaugh's staff at the University of San Diego and, eventually, Stanford. The experiences convinced him that the best way to increase the number of minority coaches in college football isn't to mount a soapbox but, rather, to take a practical, grass-roots approach.
"You can't force someone to hire someone based on race," he said. "I wouldn't want someone telling me who to hire for my staff.
"So much of the responsibility of being a head coach is not about the X's and O's. It's about organization, it's about recruiting -- it's a huge pie, and football is only a slice of it.
"We have to train and cultivate young candidates so that they understand that, and then we have to make them accessible to the decision makers" (university presidents and athletic directors).
"My job is to do things the right way and influence the guys around me," he said.
Alone among major college football teams, Stanford has African-Americans in the three key coaching positions. But Shaw didn't hire Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator and Derek Mason as defensive coordinator because of their race or because of the message it would send to "decision makers." True to his belief in a practical approach, he picked Hamilton and Mason because they were the best fits tactically and philosophically.
Two years later, they've become what Shaw once was: well-regarded coordinators on a top-10 team, in line to become head coaches.
"David doesn't see color; he sees opportunity and responsibility," Mason said. "What he does serves as a model for all of us.
"As much as he works on not being recognized, you can't hide who you are. And he's the standard-bearer."
For more on college sports, read Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at 408-920-5716.
Education: James Logan High School in Union City and Stanford University
Family: Shaw and his wife, Kori, have three children: Keegan, Carter and Gavin.
Coaching background: Seven years as a college assistant and coordinator, including four at Stanford. Nine years as an assistant in the NFL, including four with the Raiders.
Mentors: Bill Walsh, Jon Gruden and Shaw’s father, Willie, a former NFL and college assistant
Appointment: Was named the 34th head coach in Stanford history on Jan. 13, 2011, succeeding Jim Harbaugh.
Success: Two-year record of 22-4, with two Bowl Championship Series appearances and one conference title. Named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012, becoming just the fifth coach in league history to win the award in back-to-back years.