Chad Hutchinson, who turned down $1.5 million from the Atlanta Braves to play two sports at Stanford University, is leaning toward a major in economics.
Short-sighted, he’s not.
“It was definitely the hardest decision of my life,” Stanford’s 19-year-old quarterback/pitcher said Thursday. “But it’s something I felt inside and it’s something I don’t regret.”
Likewise, there are no regrets for second-year football coach Tyrone Willingham, who named Hutchinson his starter only days before the season opener - a decision that prompted senior Tim Carey to transfer in disgust.
Willingham was empathetic, but couldn’t reward Carey’s patience at the expense of the future. As a sophomore, Hutchinson was the more logical choice.
“Tim would probably be having the same learning experiences as I have right now, because he hadn’t played but six plays before then,” said Hutchinson. “So whichever way they chose, it was definitely going to be a learning year, especially with our young offensive line.”
Hutchinson struggled early in the season - he’s still only the 10th-rated passer in the Pacific-10 Conference - but the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has rewarded Willingham’s faith by leading the Cardinal to consecutive wins over UCLA and USC.
In those games, Hutchinson completed 42 of 67 passes for 434 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that led Washington State coach Mike Price to call Hutchinson the Cardinal’s most improved player.
With Hutchinson playing better and the running game picking up, Stanford (4-5) is two wins from a shot at a postseason bowl - a remarkable reversal for a team that lost to Oregon State less than a month ago.
In the process, Hutchinson appears to have earned the respect of teammates, including some who thought Carey, as a senior, deserved a chance to lead the team.
“I really don’t think it divided the team because everybody knew there was no definite answer for who the quarterback was,” Hutchinson said. “But obviously there were some hard feelings when I was chosen - some of the other guys who thought Tim deserved a chance.”
Hutchinson is the answer for now, although his sporting future is clearly in baseball.
The Braves made him the 26th pick of the first round in the 1995 June major league draft, dangling enough cash to test anyone’s mettle.
Hutchinson resisted, taking the more difficult road. Consequently, he finds himself trying to balance football, baseball and schoolwork.
“I’m trying,” he said. “It’s challenging because everybody here is so incredibly talented academically.
“And especially when football is really the No. 1 priority in my life right now - you’ve still got to think about the best academics in the nation.”
Mike Sage will start at right guard, in place of the injured Bryan Chiu, Price said.
Chiu, who re-injured his left shoulder against UCLA last week, will play at least one offensive series in order to test the shoulder.
Sage is a 6-2, 330-pound sophomore from Las Vegas.
Johnny Nansen might start at strong-side linebacker. A decision will be made Saturday, Price said.
Todd Nelson became the starter when Nansen missed two games with a broken jaw. Nansen saw limited playing time against UCLA.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE HUTCHINSON FILE Football: 9 games, 159 of 265 passes completed (60 percent), 1,744 yards, 6 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. Baseball: 94-mph fastball, 7-2 record as Stanford pitcher last season, 3.51 ERA.