STANFORD, Calif. -- Bill Walsh stepped out of the press box and back into college football yesterday, saying that his decision to return to Stanford University as its football coach was spurred by a love for teaching and coaching.
Walsh, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles before joining NBC as its No. 1 pro football analyst in 1989, agreed to a five-year contract that will reportedly pay him $350,000 a year.
At a news conference here, Walsh denied speculation that he was expected to take on a diminished role at NBC, saying that the network had no intention of making him its No. 2 analyst and even offered him a contract extension.
He would have earned far more by remaining in television or by taking a job as special consultant with the 49ers, who were prepared to announce his return today. Neither, however, would have brought Walsh, 60, back to the sideline, where he said he was eager to return. He makes his home about 2 miles north of Stanford.
"I feel I'm at my best teaching the game of football to people," he said yesterday, "putting the components together and then competing. To me, this is home."
In New York, there was no indication from NBC that Walsh was pushed out. Terry O'Neil, the executive producer of NBC Sports, said the network "could have set the stage a little differently" and perhaps avoided expectations that Walsh would be another John Madden.
"I made the mistake of saying he would be the best analyst of technical football there had ever been," O'Neil said of Walsh. "But the 'technical' got lost, and what resulted was too much expectation to put on anybody, especially with John Madden on the air."
Above all, Walsh was motivated by an opportunity to work close to his home without the burden of travel involved in his network schedule or with the uncertain job description he would have had with the 49ers. He has a reputation as someone who craves control, and that likely would not have meshed with 49ers coach George Seifert, who would undoubtedly have lost some power.
But 49ers owner Ed DeBartolo insisted Seifert did not feel threatened. "George was totally supportive of Bill," he said. "He could have taken me aside and said, 'It's not going to work,' but he didn't."
Walsh said he had had offers to return to pro football, some of which he had considered.
"I thought of it peripherally a year ago with some NFL franchises, but it wasn't right," he said. "This is."
In two years at Stanford, 1977 and 1978, he took the Cardinal to a combined 17-7 record and victories in the Sun Bowl and Bluebonnet Bowl. He then coached the 49ers for 10 seasons.