Cal, Tedford want to shine like new facilities

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
12:00
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California athletic director Sandy Barbour gave Bears coach Jeff Tedford a firm vote of confidence last week, telling CBSSports.com and BearTerritory.net that Tedford "is not on the hot seat."

She added, "Jeff Tedford has worked miracles at Cal. He's an icon as far as I'm concerned."

If you know Tedford, however, it shouldn't be surprising that he was oblivious to Barbour's comments, even a week later.

"That's news to me," he said. "I never actually saw that. I guess that's nice to know."

[+] Enlarge Jeff Tedford
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJeff Tedford has compiled a 79-48 record at Cal, but is just 20-18 in the past three seasons.
Many coaches live like they are in a bunker during football season. Tedford is known to be extreme even among coaches. If he does end up getting fired, it won't be because he didn't bust his butt doing everything he could think of to be successful.

So is Tedford, entering his 11th season leading the Golden Bears, on the hot seat? Well, if you add "dreaded" in advance of "vote of confidence" and did a Google search, you'd see that such talk doesn't mean much. There is no question that a vocal group of Cal fans -- whether it represents a majority or not -- believes Tedford has plateaued. Some folks who used to fight to keep him in Berkeley now believe he needs to prove himself anew. Or be cut loose.

What thickens the plot is the newness that now surrounds the Pac-12's longest-tenured coach. (Mike Riley has been at Oregon State 11 years, but his tenure is split by a three-year stint with the San Diego Chargers.) When Tedford was hired in 2002, he was promised major upgrades to some of the worst facilities in all of college football. He waited. And waited. But now, with a new student-athlete performance center and a $330 million renovation of Memorial Stadium, the Bears now have gone from the outhouse to the penthouse over the past two years.

"I don't think there is any doubt it will help us in recruiting," Tedford said.

But will Tedford get to enjoy the recruiting uptick A-list facilities promote?

The case for Tedford is fairly strong. In 24 seasons before he arrived -- 1978-2004 -- Cal won three or fewer games nine times while winning seven or more games four times. Tedford has suffered one losing season -- 5-7 in 2010 -- and has won 10 games twice and nine games once.

Pre-Tedford, Cal's last winning season came in 1993. And Tedford is 7-3 in the Big Game.

Yet the reaction to these oft-noted numbers is a less flattering round of oft-noted numbers. The Bears are 12-15 in conference games the past three years and have averaged six losses per season. During those three seasons, not only has Cal lost, it's often lost in embarrassing fashion -- see 11 defeats by at least 17 points. And seven by at least 27 points.

Cal hasn't finished a season nationally ranked since 2008. And Tedford has lost the Big Game twice in a row.

What's fair to say is that Tedford's supporters as well as his critics want the Bears to party like it's 2004-06, when they won 28 games, posted a pair of 10-win seasons and looked like a budding national power. And Tedford wants that, too.

The question then becomes whether the 2012 season, which starts with a home date inside that sparkly, upgraded stadium on Saturday against Nevada, will fuel the pro-Tedford folks or the anti-Tedford folks.

The answer to that probably starts with quarterback Zach Maynard. While Maynard and the Bears laid an egg in the Holiday Bowl against Texas, he played well down the home stretch of the 2011 season. If that proves to be a steppingstone in 2012, Cal could make some noise in the North Division.

Tedford said there's a big difference between Maynard as a second-year Pac-12 starter and last year, when he was a transfer from Buffalo who had sat out a season due to transfer rules.

"Totally different," Tedford said. "Going into last season as far as game planning and knowledge of our offense and speed of the game and management of the game, there was a learning curve there. We struggled a little bit early in the year but he really settled in the latter half of the season."

If Maynard steps up, the big question then becomes the young receivers. Though Keenan Allen is among the best in the nation, the next four receivers are freshmen, including three true freshmen: Bryce Treggs, who will start opposite Allen; Chris Harper; Darius Powe; and Maurice Harris, a redshirt freshman listed behind Treggs.

Said Tedford, "Any time freshmen play in a game … there's going to be a learning curve there."

Don't expect the Bears to take Nevada lightly. Cal went to Nevada in 2010 and got spanked 52-31. Of course, the Wolf Pack went on to finish 13-1 and ranked 11th, but at the time it was seen as another embarrassing road bumble for the Bears.

A lot is new around the program, but Tedford isn't necessarily looking for a new script for his team. He just needs things to go back to where they were when he was the toast of Berkeley.

Ted Miller | email

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