I gave up season tickets that my family had held for more than 20 years—I’ve been going to Memorial Stadium for a half century (yes, that’s right since sitting in the north end zone and watching Craig Morton throw a game-winning touchdown pass against Illinois). I was there for The Play and many other highlights and lowlights. The end for me was leaving two games in the 3rd quarter, something I had never done, watching Tom Holmoe’s 2001 team quit on the field.
Since Tedford took over, it’s been a new world. Cal dismissed Mike White—after my senior year and a co-championship in the Pac 8, but no Rose Bowl—and then Bruce Snyder brought a quality football in the early 90s until an incompetent athletic director let him slip away to Arizona State and with him Cal’s program.
After Holmoe, came Tedford and teams that competed—through the last minute—they didn’t roll over and wet on themselves. There were amazing heights and some substantial falls—over as little as a reserve quarterback’s failure to throw away a pass in the waning seconds to give the Bears a chance at a tying field goal when the No. 1 national ranking was at stake.
I didn’t see the Oregon State game thanks to the inability of the Pac-12 network and U-verse to make a deal, but the Bears hung in defensively with a vastly superior Oregon team for a half the week before. That said, the trajectory of the program was definitely in the wrong direction.
The challenge for the athletic department was the $320 million tab for the stadium that was predicated on quality teams that drew people willing to pay top dollar. You have to look no farther than the brilliant hire of Jim Harbaugh at both Stanford and the 49ers and the results and how it has made a huge difference in seat sales for the new stadium in Santa Clara. Tedford did the same for Cal for six years and now is the all-time leader in wins, bowl victories and other key categories.
Matched against that was Tedford’s admirable loyalty to stick with Cal and its inadequate training and stadium when he could have written his own ticket in the NFL or at another major university with substantially more resources during those first six years.
He hung in and, in the end, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and the university could not.
Did his time simply run out and it’s time for new leadership—a huge challenge for the AD—or did he get thrown under the bus?
The competition in the Pac 12 has gotten much tougher and the challenge for Barbour will be to attract not only a top caliber coach, but to have the resources so that person can surround himself with very capable assistants.