Heart of the City: California

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
10:00
AM ET
We are taking a look at FBS programs located in major cities alongside NFL franchises.

Up next: California
Location: Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 36,000
Bowl appearances: 17
NFL first-round picks: 23
Losing seasons: 35
10-win seasons: 7

Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: College numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The good: Great school, and the Bay Area is a great place to be.

California, the nation's highest rated public university, is close to not only San Francisco and Oakland but also San Jose and Silicon Valley, the high-tech capital of the U.S.

Cal was once a West Coast football power, winning national championships in 1920 and 1922. It won or shared 12 Pacific Coast Conference championships from 1918-1958. It won 103 games in 10 seasons -- 1947-58 -- under Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf. There was a lengthy downturn, yes, but under Jeff Tedford, the program had played in seven consecutive bowl games -- going 5-2 in those games -- before finishing with its first losing record since 2001 this past fall.

Memorial Stadium, perched above San Francisco Bay and nestled into Strawberry Canyon, is one of the most scenic venues in the country. It also features one of the top home crowds in the Pac-12. The school is in the process of major facilities improvements: a major stadium renovation project that should be completed before the 2012 season and the construction of a new Student-Athlete High Performance Center.

Further, recruiting in Northern California is underrated. There's a reason why Cal has produced eight NFL first-round draft picks under Tedford.

The bad: Cal fans are Cal fans, but there's a lot to do in the Bay Area. Pro sports? Heck, there are two NFL and two major league baseball teams.

Moreover, the program fell into a swoon after Waldorf departed. Of the 11 coaches since him and previous to Tedford, only Mike White and Bruce Snyder would leave with winning records. The venerable Marv Levy went 8-29-3. In 2001, Tom Holmoe's final season, the Bears average attendance was 33, 443 -- just under 50 percent of capacity.

Tedford brought the fans back. Even during a down 2010, the Bears averaged 57,873 fans, but that's down from 64,019 in 2004. The Old Blues are no longer satisfied with merely solid to good. They want a Rose Bowl, where the program hasn't been since 1958.

Ted Miller | email

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