Pac-12: Sandy Barbour

Cal football coach Sonny Dykes wasn't completely caught off guard when Sandy Barbour's 10-year run as the athletic director at Cal came to an abrupt end in late June. Not because he sensed a change was coming, but because of the nature of the position.

"It's always a surprise when there's a change of leadership, to an extent," Dykes said. "[Barbour] was here for a long time. [Athletic directors] with her tenure aren't very common. As someone hits six, seven years, you can almost put a countdown clock on it.

"I was a little surprised by the timing, maybe, but I'm happy that she obviously landed on her feet [as the new AD at Penn State]. She'll do a great job there."

When Barbour was pushed out the door, Dykes lost a staunch ally. She hired him, she sold the Cal community on him and was professionally vested to his success. The two had a good working relationship and, by several accounts, Barbour remained confident the football program was headed in the right direction despite the monumental woes of 2013.

Without her in the AD chair, there will be change. That's only natural.

To what extent that affects Dykes' job security remains to be seen, but the common thought process when it comes to new athletic directors is that they want to hire their own coaches — especially for the high-profile sports. That's not a hard-and-fast rule, but the coaches that stick around under new administration are also generally the ones who win.

Michael Williams, a former Cal wrestler, was selected by chancellor Nicholas Dirks to step in to Barbour's old job in an interim basis as the school starts what is expected to be a lengthly search for her permanent replacement. Williams committed to the role for a year, but there isn't an official time frame for how long he'll remain in place.

"The chancellor put me in not to keep the seat warm, but to actually be the athletic director," Williams said. "I'm interviewing coaches, making coaching decisions, signing contracts all the thing that's go along with the job."

That, of course, includes evaluating where things stand with the football program, and so far Williams likes what he sees from a foundation standpoint.

"I knew [Dykes] only as a fan and I thought, from afar, he was a good high-character person. And now our relationship as colleagues has proven that that's what he is," Williams said. "He's been very open and honest with me. I've noticed that he doesn't complain. He was dealt a pretty difficult hand and you really haven't heard him complain about it.

"He's very much focused on the future, he's very optimistic. He's already made some great changes in the academic profile of our student-athletes in football, which we're pleased with."

As for how Williams will evaluate the on-field product, that's still to be determined.

"I don't have any metrics yet. For me as an observer, we'll know progress when we see it," Williams said. "I don't in my mind have a certain number of wins [that constitutes success]. If we see ourselves competing. If we see the system is working and we see some entertaining football -- those are some things -- but I don't have anything really specific."

Williams' wait-and-see approach is really the only rational course to take. Even with an improved team this year -- which Cal has to be -- that might not mean much in the Pac-12 North standings, which is as difficult a division as there is in college football. Dykes is still the same coach several FBS programs tried to hire less than two years ago, and needs at least two more seasons before the direction of the program can be fairly judged.

"I'm optimistic about Sonny and excited to see what he does on the field this year," Williams said. "Anything I can do to help him, I will."

Cal opens training camp Monday and begins the season Aug. 30 at Northwestern.

Pac-12's lunch links

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
When we were kids. We used to race our bikes down Cherry Hill every day after school. We raced every day and he always beat me, but one time, one time I beat him.
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

But first, you now have a full bag of Twitter handles that are required reading.

You have mine here. You have Kevin Gemmell's brand spanking new 140-character depot.

And you have our veteran Tweeters and new Pac-12 blog insiders, Chantel Jennings -- here -- and Kyle Bonagura -- here.

That is 560 characters that nine out of 10 doctors recommend -- and this is the 10th doctor.

To the notes!

Nick from Sacramento writes: If Sonny Dykes wins 5 games this season, with a new AD, think he sees season 3?

Ted Miller: Short answer: Yes.

I also think that if he wins four or even three games and the Bears are far more competitive on both sides of the ball than they were in 2013, he deserves a third season, unless things go haywire off the field. While Dykes didn't inherit an entirely empty cupboard from Jeff Tedford, there were certainly issues, and then the Bears' injury woes last season were among the worst I've witnessed -- UCLA fans, you could equate it to your 1999 season, when Bob Toledo was practically walking around campus asking guys to suit up.

Dykes hasn't been perfect. Most notably his hiring of Andy Buh as defensive coordinator didn't work out. But he also deserves credit for making a handful of changes on his staff this offseason, including the hiring of Art Kaufman to run his defense.

Of course, when a football coach of a struggling team sees the athletic director who hired him depart, he knows he is losing an important administrative relationship. ADs and the coaches they hire in revenue sports are tied at the hip. When one suffers, so does the other. In this case, with Sandy Barbour leaving, Dykes is now less secure than he was last week. And it's notable that we rated him as the least secure Pac-12 coach even before this news.

The question now turns to the sort of AD Cal has in mind to replace Barbour. There are plenty of athletic director types out there. Some move deliberately. Some are more impulsive. I've been told by more than a few savvy ADs that it's important to hire your own football coach because you would rather be judged by what you have done than what your predecessor did.

Yet, as with most things in college football, there is an easy solution: Winning.

If Dykes goes 4-8 this season and gets back to the postseason in 2015 with quarterback Jared Goff as a third-year starter -- and his team is academically and behaviorally sound -- I suspect we'll see him around for a while.

Tom from Seattle writes: Saw your QB blog about the PAC-12 and the comments on Utah's QB Travis Wilson -- "When healthy, Wilson has been a solid performer with good upside. "Are we talking about the same Travis Wilson that is the 11th ranked PAC-12 QB in conference play two years running and leads the world in INT's? Still love your blogs, though!

Ted Miller: Yes.

First, Wilson, despite playing with an injury for three games, ended up grading out fairly well, ranking 47th in the nation in's Total QBR. Sure, that is only ninth in the Pac-12, but in the conference of quarterbacks, it's important to keep a national perspective when we are evaluating what might constitute a "solid performer."

Second, see if you notice anything in these numbers. Can you guess when Wilson got hurt? What you see is a pretty good quarterback through six games and the bottom falling out during the next three conference games. Again, "when healthy Wilson has been a solid performer..." When he was bad last season, he wasn't healthy (other than the UCLA disaster).

What about that "good upside" part? Well, let's not forget that Wilson was a true sophomore last season. He was thrust into service prematurely in 2012 and played fairly well considering the circumstances. When the Utes were 4-2 after beating Stanford, he looked like a guy who could lead the Utes into the South Division race.

For comparison's sake, consider that Oregon State's Sean Mannion had a 127.1 rating with 18 interceptions as a redshirt freshman starter. Wilson finished with a 129.7 rating last season.

But thanks for loving the blogs. Most awesome people do.

Paul from Albany, Ore., writes: Losing Brandin Cooks is going to be very difficult on the Oregon State offense and this fact has been pointed out numerous times. What has not been pointed out is that this same dialogue was stated the prior year when Markus Wheaton was lost to the NFL. Yes Cooks had a better year last than Wheaton did one earlier. But why has so little been written about the common denominator in both seasons -- Sean Mannion?? He is returning and yet all you folks write about is the losses he has sustained. How about digging into the idea that maybe he is a key factor in helping these receivers achieve their lofty status?

Ted Miller: Well, after passing for 10,436 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons, Mannion certainly merits a tip of the cap. And he has improved each year, which is a good thing.

I'd also contend he gets plenty of credit. For one, we ranked him fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks, which is saying something when all four qualify as All-American candidates. And NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. knows who he is, ranking him the nation's No. 2 senior quarterback Insider.

But this will be a revealing year for Mannion. For one, he's a senior. This is his last chance to make a statement as a college quarterback and as an NFL prospect. Second, for the first time, he doesn't have a proven, NFL prospect at receiver.

NFL scouts are presently wondering if Wheaton and Cooks made Mannion look good. If Mannion is a more efficient player this season with a less stellar supporting cast in the passing game and, yes, wins a couple of big games, his stock will rise both when it comes to college kudos and NFL love.

Wayne from Mesa, Ariz., writes: A few weeks ago, the PAC-12 announced a new start time window for football: 11:00am. A few stories circulated the announcement, but I have not seen anything since. Has there been much feedback regarding this start time? From my standpoint, while it provides needed content for that time slot on the PAC-12 Network, it's way too early for the fans, especially in a region where we are used to late afternoon and night games.

Ted Miller: We did a poll and 58 percent of 5,391 respondents were positive about the 11 a.m. window.

I generally agree with that result. While 11 a.m. isn't ideal, it's better than having four games kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT. A lot of Pac-12 fans have been complaining about a surfeit of late kickoffs. This is a response to that complaint. My guess is those who will now complain about the early kickoff will be fewer in numbers.

It's important to note a few things about the 11 a.m. window.

Wayne, I notice you are from Arizona. If you are a fan of Arizona or Arizona State, you won't have to worry about an 11 a.m. kickoff, at least not until late October. The Pac-12 has no interest in fans melting into puddles in their seats.

It's also unlikely the 11 a.m. kick will be the day's marquee game. That still will almost always fall into primetime windows, be that on ET or PT.

I suspect the 11 a.m. kickoff will mean more TV eyeballs for what might seem like middling games. While some folks are worried about competing with SEC or Big Ten games at 2 p.m., I don't see that as an issue. Some viewers will tune in because they care more about the Pac-12. Some will tune in because they like to watch more than one game at once. Those who don't care about the Pac-12 wouldn't watch with any kickoff time.

Some don't like the 11 a.m. kickoff because it means waking up early to drive to the stadium, and it cuts into tailgating time. But I'm not sure if these party-hardy folks are looking at the big picture.

First, there will be some encouragement for fans to arrive Friday evening. That only means more fun. Then, on Saturday, you get the 8 a.m. bloody mary at the stadium with eggs and bacon and country ham from this guy. Yummy. Then you have a postgame tailgate and time for a dinner and -- potentially -- a nice evening to tool around the old college digs.

The socially creative among you will be emailing me at season's end telling me the 11 a.m. kickoff rocked.

Emily from Los Angeles writes: You want a heartbreaking loss? What about the 3OT game between USC and Stanford?

Ted Miller: You mean a game that featured big names, ranked teams, controversy, late heroics and three overtimes could be heartbreaking?

I was there. Really entertaining, strange game. Hated how it ended, though. Not in terms of who won, but that it was about a sloppy and unfortunate turnover rather than a dramatic play.

Trevor from Portland writes: We got an article about Pac-12 heartbreakers, and it left out the biggest heartbreaker of the decade. Cam Newton fumbled, he wasn't down by forward progress. Cliff Harris was in. Michael Dyer was down. I'm still not over it.

Ted Miller: I was there for that one, too.

The Ducks were so close to a national title. It was the only time I can recall that Chip Kelly expressed regret about his game plan and some in-game decisions, as that sort of navel gazing wasn't his thing.

That is the thing about close games. They are a thrill to win and excruciating to lose. They also are why we love sports. While we love the winning, there is also a masochistic side to us that enjoys the social aspects of wallowing in misery among friends.

(Thousands of fans from various, struggling Pac-12 outposts immediately go, "Who... us?")

Lunch links: Cravens rising

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
Happy Friday!

Mailbag: Beavers and Cal's Barbour

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
Greetings. Hopefully your bracket is full of awesomeness.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. It's probably the quickest way to reach eternal and universal consciousness.

To the notes!

Eric from Terrebonne, Ore., writes: I have a prediction. Oregon State will be an improved team in the first year of the CFB playoff. Here is my justification:

1. With the return of Captain Doctor and the experience some of the underclassmen got last year in his absence, a strong LB corps can replace and improve upon the production of our front seven last year. Scott Crichton is a big loss, but I suspect we will see improved play from our front seven in run defense.

2. Steven Nelson is big time. In his first year in the Beavers' system, he had six interceptions (one for a TD). Under the tutelage of Rod Perry, I suspect he could improve on that number, and he appears to have the skill set to be a fantastic college cornerback.

3. The run game will improve. The Beavs have a great group of underclassmen on the offensive line. I foresee a couple of them stepping up, and doing great things for the run game. Sean Harlow showed that he can be dominant last year as a freshman, and if he can develop a bit more consistency, he could be an anchor up front. The bowl game showed that the potential is there for Oregon State to once again be a "pound the ground, and throw it over your head" offense. When the offense is balanced, Oregon State can beat anyone (and often does). I will be interested to see where Chris Brown fits into the run game, as I have really liked some of the stuff he has done.

John Garrett is a wild card to me. I will be interested in seeing what "tweaks" he brings to the offense. There will be a lot of new looks in the conference, next year, but I suspect we will see a return to an older style from Oregon State.

Ted Miller: There certainly are reasons to be optimistic about the Beavers in 2014, though there also are plenty of questions and the Pac-12 North Division isn't getting any easier.

The biggest reason for optimism is the return of QB Sean Mannion, who I suspect will take another step forward as a player and leader as a senior.You mention the linebackers, but the entire back seven on defense is going to be strong. Linebackers D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson and Michael Doctor will be an A-list starting three, and three starters are back in the secondary, topped by Nelson and freee safety Ryan Murphy. Those five are potential all-conference guys.

Tight end/H-back is also deep, and could compensate for some questions at receiver.

Ah, but receiver is a good place to start in terms of questions: How the heck do you replace Brandin Cooks? Richard Mullaney is a nice player, but there's not much proven production behind him. Sophomores Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore top the spring depth chart, and they combined for 13 receptions last seas0n.

While the offensive line is replacing three starters, the potential replacements have experience. The biggest question is probably left tackle, where junior college transfer Bobby Keenan will be given first crack to replace Michael Philipp. If it stays healthy, this crew could be solid. That and questions with the receivers probably will boost the emphasis on the running game, which I view as a positive. You could see the Beavers tearing a page from Stanford's tight end-heavy playbook this year.

Finally, there's the defensive line, which is replacing three starters, including Scott Crichton. The situation at defensive tackle looks far better than it did a year ago. Most notable is 300-pound Miami transfer Jalen Grimble, who is being penciled in as an interior starter. But Crichton's end position opposite stalwart Dylan Wynn is a big question. Jaswha James tops the spring depth chart and he had just eight tackles last year. His backups, which include converted receiver Obum Gwacham, have no game experience.

The priorities for the Beavers in 2014 are the same on both sides of the ball: The run game.

The Beavers couldn't run the ball or stop the run last season. Kevin touched on the run offense here, but stopping the run was as big a problem. The Beavers yielded 5.1 yards per carry, which ranked last in the conference, and surrendered 28 rushing TDs, which ranked 10th.

The weak run defense last fall affected what should have been a good secondary, as the Beavers ranked only eighth in pass efficiency defense. One might recall some pass-defense problems in the 2013 season opener.

The Beavers certainly look like a bowl team. At present, I'd rate the over-under for their regular-season win total at seven. But if the receivers grow up quickly and both lines of scrimmage stay healthy, that number might inch up by one or two or even three wins.

Ashley from Louisville, Ky., writes: Cal football had the worst year in its history after spending millions of dollars on a new stadium (and several seasons of mediocrity). Cal basketball imploded and didn't make the tournament even after a brief moment of brilliance, beating Arizona (typical for Cal athletics to offer us hope before taking it away, it seems). When will Sandy Barbour finally take some heat for the underachievement of the big programs?

Ted Miller: Well, if Cal football posts a second consecutive dismal season under second-year coach Sonny Dykes in front of dwindling crowds at Memorial Stadium, I'd guess things would get pretty hot for Barbour, though I don't sense a great clamoring for her termination.

While basketball is muddling along and football has taken a downturn, Barbour has accomplished a lot after taking over a program that was mired in all sorts of financial troubles. For one, she substantially upgraded the football facilities and renovated the stadium, which is quite an accomplishment at a place like Berkeley, where lots of folks hold the odd notion that one of the world's great academic institutions should't spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sports. Imagine.

Moreover, non-revenue sports have done great under her (other than that a PR hiccup a few years back about cutting sports to save money).

My personal take is Berkeley is not an easy place to be an AD (I bet Barbour, if she's reading this, just said to herself, "You can bet your tuchus it isn't, Miller!"). If Dykes and the football program take a step forward this year, my guess is Barbour is more likely to sign an extension than get canned.

As with all hasty decisions about hiring and firing, I'd suggest you listen to Walter White.

Tread lightly.

This, to me, is a notably reasonable assessment of Barbour from a variety of Cal voices.

Ita from Layton, Utah writes: Ted, you are being paged to the ESPN Tournament Challenge page. I repeat, Ted Miller, please report to the Pac-12 Blog Tournament Challenge page.

Ted Miller: I'm always late to these things.

But I did notice that Kevin was kicking butt… in 41st place.

Biggeazy from Everett, Wash., writes: Just wanted to thank you and Kevin for this blog. I may disagree with you guys on different occasions, but you guys do a really good job. Just know that you have a lot of fans across Pac-12 country and your collective hard work is greatly appreciated. Please extend my greetings to all the blog regulars. I think I speak for all when I say I miss the banter a ton.

Ted Miller: Wait… you disagree with us on occasion?

Can't possibly be true.

But thanks.

Best case-worst case: California

August, 2, 2013
This is the third in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: California

Sonny Dykes shakes hands with California athletic director Sandy Barbour. It's Dec. 5, 2012.

"So do we have a deal?" Dykes asks.

"Close. But we have one more step. The most important step. Hold on," Barbour says.

Dykes' inquisitive look transforms to shock as Barbour's office begins to vibrate. Then... swoosh... thwwaaack! And Barbour's office returns to normal, only she and Dykes are gone.

Dykes opens his tightly clenched eyes. He's sitting in moodily lit but ornate room. In front of him is a large oak table, shaped like a crescent moon, at which sits a large group of distinguished looking men and women, though a couple of them are fronted by lava lamps. The air smells of fresh herbs.
Timothy Leary: Far out! Groovy! Look who turned on, tuned in and dropped in!

Philip K. Dick: I never get tired of that. Talk about passing through a scanner darkly.

John H. Schwartz: Hey, it's all superstring theory.

Saul Perimutter: Anyone getting tired of Schwartz and his 'Hey, it's all superstring theory'? Buy that guy a good meal at Chez Panisse and it's, 'Hey, it's all superstring theory.'

Dykes gives Barbour another, slightly more urgent inquisitive look.

"Sonny, I'd like you to meet Berkeley's 'Potentem Secretus Commissionibus'," Barbour says. "They have something they want to show you."

It's the movie "Citizen Kane." The first scene plays on a giant screen.

"Rosebud..." says a dying Charles Foster Kane. Then the movie clicks off.

"Great movie!" Dykes says.

A voice booms across the room, "But it's horse poop! He truly said 'Rose Bowl,' and I'm still mad at Orson Wells for messing up the most important moment in his life. Or, rather, his death."

"Sonny, this is William Randolph Hearst Jr.," Barbour says.

"Dad died in August of 1951," Hearst says. "He was a Harvard man. I went to Berkeley. But he loved the Bears just as I did. He saw Cal go to three consecutive Rose Bowls from 1949-51. Lost them all. All he wanted was just one Rose Bowl victory before he died."

"So you can imagine how we feel -- no Rose Bowl since 1959!" Jerry Mathers says. "Gee, it'a be swell to even just lose one if we could just go again in my lifetime."

"Leave it to the Beaver to cut to the chase," cackles Robert Penn Warren. "You see what I did there, right? Seriously now, Sonny, the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and..."

"If I have to hear about the spider web from you again," says Bill Bixby. "I'm going to get angry, and it will take more than 'All the King's Men,' to stop me from smashing you!"

"Look folks," Dykes interjects. "I get it. You want a Rose Bowl. I want a Rose Bowl. And I've got a plan. But it won't happen overnight. Just have faith."

A woman across the room lets out a deep breath.

"I've been waiting to exhale for a long time!" Terry McMillan says.

Cal beats Northwestern 30-28 when Vince D'Amato boots a 49-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining. It whips Portland State then bests No. 2 Ohio State 24-21.

"No, this doesn't surprise me," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer says. "They should have beaten us last year. We're pretty overrated."

The eighth-ranked Bears fall at No. 2 Oregon 42-24. Then they beat Washington State, lose at UCLA and beat Oregon State before falling at Washington. After a 35-30 win over Arizona, fifth-ranked and undefeated USC comes to Berkeley.

"Dude, I do not care that Southern Cal has beaten us nine consecutive times," quarterback Zach Kline says. "Are you the sort who goes to Vegas and plays roulette and bets black after nine red winners? Doesn't work like that. Each moment in time is its own distinct universe. The only way nine consecutive losses matters is if you allow it to matter."

Pac-12 blog: "And how do you approach the game so nine consecutive losses won't matter?"

Kline: "I'll tell you, football's not a sport, it's a way of life, it's no hobby. It's a way of looking at that field and saying, 'Hey bud, let's party!'"

Cal beats the Trojans 28-24. Kline throws a pair of TD passes and Brendan Bigelow rushes for 148 yards.

After coasting past Colorado, the 8-3 Bears head to No. 4 Stanford for the Big Game. The Cardinal previously beat Oregon but fell to USC, so all three have just a single defeat. The general feeling, with no unbeaten teams in the nation and the Pac-12 rated as the nation's best conference, is the conference champion will play for the national title against the SEC champion.

Dykes meets again with the Potentem Secretus Commissionibus.
Tom Anderson: Look Sonny! I've set up a Facebook page for this Big Game. I've made up a bunch of fake quotes from Stanford players to get your guys mad. Isn't that great?

Robbie Jones: You know there's not even one decent tree on Stanford's hill? Or do they even have a hill where one tree can grow?

Adam Duritz: Er, Mr. Jones, that observation isn't helping. Here, talk to this black-haired flamenco dancer.

Earl Warren: Sonny, did I tell you I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures. But I'd really like to read about Stanford's failure on Saturday.

Pac-12 blog: So, Sonny, getting a feel for how unique it is coaching the Berkeley football team?
Kevin Hogan sneaks in from 1-yard out to give Stanford a 21-17 lead with 34 seconds left. The Cardinal kick off.

Bigelow catches the ball at the 1-yard line. He laterals it to Bryce Treggs, who laterals it to Kenny Lawler, who sends it back to Bigelow.

Who is tackled on the Cal 26.

Kline lines up in a shotgun. He takes the snap. He hands the ball to Bigelow. Who sprints right up the middle for a 74-yard touchdown. Cal wins.

"We'll," says the announcer. "That's another way to do it."

The loss knocks Stanford out of the Pac-12 title game. When Oregon beats USC by a late field goal in the conference championship, the Ducks go to the national title game and USC heads to the Rose Bowl.

Stanford loses to TCU in the Alamo Bowl. Coach David Shaw is hired by the Dallas Cowboys. He's replaced by John Mackovic.

Cal beats Texas 59-0 in the Holiday Bowl -- Dykes goes for two to hit 59 -- which inspires Longhorns coach Mack Brown to resign and finally offer an apology to Cal for, "Talking all sorts of stupid, ridiculous stuff in 2004 when the Bears were clearly better than us."

Worst case

While there's no shame in losing to a good Northwestern team, California's first performance of the Sonny Dykes era is lackluster, most noteworthy being a pair of interceptions from Kline and just 310 yards of total offense.

Bears fans, frustrated by years of sub-par QB play, were hoping for more.

After whipping Portland State, No. 2 Ohio State comes to town, a team Cal almost beat a year ago in Columbus. The good news is Bears fans get to see good QB play. The bad news is it's Braxton Miller making plays with his arm and legs as the Buckeyes roll 35-17.

Cal gets a week off, but it doesn't help at Oregon, which rolls 45-20. The Bears get a second win by beating Washington State, but they lose three in a row thereafter, falling to UCLA, Oregon State and Washington.

At this point, Dykes switches quarterbacks, going with true freshman Jared Goff. Kline had 10 touchdown passes but also 10 interceptions through eight games, and fans feel good that Dykes is willing to make a change, something that former coach Jeff Tedford seemed reluctant to do through the years.

Goff plays well in a win over Arizona, but USC sacks him six times in a 38-10 Trojans victory the next week. Dykes goes back to Kline.

The Bears slip Colorado 17-14, but Dykes switches back to Goff in the third quarter.

"Does it hurt our confidence and make us surly to go back and forth with the starting job?" Kline says. "Maybe. But I only talk about that in the locker room. Endlessly. Same with Jared. We want to make sure everyone knows how grumpy we are. I'm sure that's good for morale."

The season whimpers toward its finale: The Big Game against No. 1, unbeaten Stanford.

"We have to match their physicality," Dykes says.

Stanford outrushes Cal 287 yards to 13 in a 40-3 victory, its fourth Big Game victory in a row.
Beverly Cleary: I'm working on a new children's book: "Sonny Dykes and the Big Freaking Disappointment."

Joan Didion: So much for our year of magical thinking.

John H. Schwartz: Hey, it's all superstring theory. Except, as a Cal fan, the string is not so super.

The Cardinal beats Alabama 20-3 and win the national championship. Coach David Shaw wins the Nobel Prize for Awesomeness shortly after signing the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

Top Dog closes in Berkeley and relocates to Palo Alto.

Karl Rove becomes Cal's new president. He immediately renames "Strawberry Canyon," "Wal-Mart Hill."

Pac-12 in safe academic territory

June, 12, 2013
The NCAA released its latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores on Tuesday, and Stanford led the way while Big Game rival California ended up last.

Berkeley, for golly gosh sakes. You're Cal-freaking-Berkeley.

Cal was so chagrined -- again -- by the numbers it -- again -- released a statement.

"One of the specific reasons behind the hiring of Sonny Dykes as our football coach last fall was his commitment to academic performance," athletic director Sandy Barbour said in the statement. "From the beginning, he has instituted standards for accountability and expectations for the entire team as it relates to academics. It may take some time for the scores to reflect the progress we are making, but it is clear that we are moving in the right direction."

Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as APR -- Academic Progress Rate. The rate measures eligibility, graduation and retention and provides a picture of the academic performance in each sport. The most recent APRs are multi-year rates based on scores from the 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-2012 academic years.

The good news is no Pac-12 team scored below 930. Any team that scored below 925 would be subject to penalties such as scholarship losses and reduced practice time. Even bigger: By 2014, schools that fall under a four-year APR average of 930 could face a postseason bowl ban.

The national average was 949, a number that seven Pac-12 teams exceeded.

By the way, two-time defending national champion Alabama scored 978, same as Stanford. Hard not to respect that.

Here's how the Pac-12 stacked up (four-year rate).
  1. Stanford… 978
  2. UCLA…966
  3. Utah... 963
  4. Oregon State… 957
  5. Arizona… 956
  6. Washington… 954
  7. Oregon… 951
  8. Colorado… 946
  9. USC… 945
  10. Washington State… 942
  11. Arizona State… 937
  12. California… 935

Berkeley! Baaa.

And here are the numbers for only 2011-12 [Edit note: This was added to original post for the sake of clarity].
  1. Arizona... 980
  2. UCLA... 978
  3. Stanford... 977
  4. Washington... 974
  5. Colorado... 969
  6. Utah... 964
  7. Oregon... 963
  8. Washington State... 960
  9. Oregon State... 958
  10. USC... 944
  11. Arizona State... 935
  12. California... 923
Men were such odd creatures. They didn't duel anymore, even fistfights had come to seem barbaric, the old casual violence all channeled through institutions now, but still they love to uphold their ancient codes. And what they loved even more was to forgive each other.

(By the way, the Pac-12 blog is finally yielding to the offseason: Every team won't get a link every day).
Wake up to find out
that you are the eyes of the World
but the heart has its beaches
its homeland and thoughts of its own.

Pac-12 athletic director salaries

March, 12, 2013
UCLA's Dan Guerrero is the Pac-12's top paid athletic director, according to recently released figures from USA Today, while Colorado's Mike Bohn ranked last in the conference among the public schools that are required to disclose salaries.

The salaries for Stanford’s Bernard Muir or USC’s Pat Haden are unavailable because they work for private schools.

Vanderbilt's David Williams tops the list at $3.24 million, but he's a special case. The "true" leader is Louisville's Tom Jurich at $1.412 million.

Nine athletic directors make more than $1 million a year, though none in the Pac-12. It's also notable that the cost of living is much higher in Pac-12 cities compared to cities in just about every other conference.

Guerrero's total pay of $715,211 ranks 18th in the nation.

Q&A: Cal coach Sonny Dykes

December, 20, 2012
Sonny Dykes has been California's coach for just over two weeks, and he's nearly filled out his coaching staff and made a dive into recruiting.

He also announced that he's bucking a recent Pac-12 trend toward closing practices. So that will earn him grins from fans and media.

[+] EnlargeSonny Dykes
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanSonny Dykes went 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech.
It seemed like a good time to check in with the 43-year-old who went 22-15 in three seasons -- 9-3 this season -- at Louisiana Tech.

You guys had a great season at Louisiana Tech, but when the Cal job opened up, did you immediately raise an eyebrow and see it as an intriguing possibility?

Dykes: Yeah, I think so. I didn't know much about Cal prior to getting in the Pac-12. But after my time at Arizona [2007-09], my eyes were opened to the potential. I don't know I knew that prior to that. Just from a recruiting standpoint, and then the name that Cal carries in the state of California and nationwide, the academic institution being as great as it is. To me, when you sit down and look at a place and you say, 'What do we have to sell?' You've got a lot to sell at Cal. The No. 1 public institution in the US. You've got the best area in the US to live in in the Bay Area. You've got $475 million worth of new facilities. You've got the Pac-12 conference and the state of California to recruit. So you sit down and look at the whole deal and this checks all the boxes. I think the place has tremendous potential. I'm really fortunate to be here.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour talked about how you had a great interview. What do you think so impressed her?

Dykes: That's all about connecting with someone and having a shared vision. I think Sandy and I share the same vision. It all begins with understanding what Cal is and what the culture is and realizing it's a positive and not a negative. The fact that it is the No. 1 academic institution in the US, we view that as a positive, while some view it as a negative. I think it all started there. We shared the same vision in how we want to build the program and how we want to deal with people. How we are going to build this thing to reach its potential. I think that is the biggest thing you do when you interview for a job. A lot of it is, you get a feel for what they are looking for and they get a feel for who you are. If the two match, it's a great marriage. I liked Sandy personally when I met with her. I was impressed with her vision for Cal. To me, I walked away from the deal going, 'I'd like to work for her. I'd like to work at this institution.'

Have you reached out to Jeff Tedford?

Dykes: I have. We've spoken. We talked about the uniqueness of Cal and the challenges that are here and also the opportunities. Jeff did a remarkable job with this program. He brought this thing so far and did an incredible job. It would be a bad decision on my part not to get his input. And it's like anything else: What would you do differently? What would you do if you had a chance to do it over again? Jeff was great. Jeff loves Cal. He loves the people here. Jeff obviously loves the players. It was a great conversation.

From what you gathered from him and from what you've heard from folks around the program and from your own assessment since you've been hired, what do you feel like went wrong, as far as the program falling off from its early surge under Tedford?

Dykes: I think it was a variety of things. First of all, it's hard to sustain success in college football. Just look around the country. In good, competitive leagues like the Pac-12, it's hard to sustain something for 10 to 12 years. It's difficult to do. You're going to have your highs and lows. I think it all begins there. Then the other stuff, there are things that are unique to this situation. The thing we have to do is look forward and learn from the mistakes that might have been made in the program. Like I said, Jeff took this thing a long way and really built this thing. I think he did a good job. The thing we've got to do is address the academic side of it quickly and get that part fixed. I think there is a correlation with that. Jeff's best teams were probably the teams full of the best students as well. Looking from the outside-in, I think that's a good lesson for me.

Tell me about Andy Buh. Why was he the choice for defensive coordinator?

Dykes: I'm a believer in fit. I've known Andy for a long time. I have a lot of respect for him. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He's been a part of really good defenses. I coached against him at Nevada and had tremendous respect for him there. I think he understands the Cal culture having been here and also coaching at Stanford. I think he's exactly what I want. He's passionate. He does a tremendous job teaching fundamentals. I think he understands how to adjust. When I brought him in to talk, the thing that was most impressive to me was his ability to adjust to different styles of offense in the Big Ten. I think that is important in this league because this is an unusual league. You are going to play against pro style one week against USC and the next week you are going to play Oregon, which is going to be fast-paced, then you're going to play against Washington State, which is going to be throwing every down. There's just unique offensive personalities in this league. I think Andy's ability to adjust is important. But it all starts with fundamentals. There's also his ties to California in recruiting. He's been recruiting here for a long time and has deep recruiting ties. This was a very important hire for me, and I have complete faith in Andy and the coaching staff we are going to put together.

He's a 4-3 guy. Are you guys going to switch from the 3-4 to a 4-3?

Dykes: We'll transition to a little bit more of an even [4-3] front. But we'll have some odd elements, especially on third down.

In recruiting, what's been the pitch and what's been the reception so far?

Dykes: I've been incredibly impressed and surprised to a degree about the name that Cal carries on the West Coas,t but also from a national perspective. We're able to get in on guys. We have name recognition, and to an academic kid, we're incredibly appealing. That gets in the door. We get them on campus, they see the Bay Area, they see the facilities, they meet the coaches. I think to a degree, Cal sells itself. I have been places that haven't necessarily done that in the past. I've had to do a lot of selling.

You're going to have a quarterback competition this spring. That's obviously a big deal anywhere, but QB play has been a problem of late for Cal. What are the key things those guys need to do to impress you and win the job?

Dykes: The biggest thing is be productive. When they get their opportunities, move the offense, scoring points, protect the football and be a leader. Those are the things we'll judge those guys on. Who can command the attention of the team? Who does the team have confidence in? Who's the most productive? We're not big on 'This guy has the most potential. This guy has the biggest arm.' That stuff doesn't matter to us. We're most interested in who can complete the passes to our guys and who can get first downs. Who do the guys believe in? And who takes care of the ball? That's what it comes down to these days, how you win and lose football games. Turnovers. You take care of the ball you win. You don't, you lose.

Mailbag: Why Dykes over MacIntyre at Cal?

December, 14, 2012
The bowl season starts tomorrow. Sweet!

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. Please.

J.McAndrew, San Jose, Calif., writes: From your perspective Mr. Miller, why would MacIntyre take the job at Colorado and not California. Or to put reversely, why would Cal AD Barbour hire Sonny Dykes and not MacIntyre. Cal was in better position to win immediatley and Colorado is going to be a major building job. Colorado must have had questions about loyalty after firing an Alum with only two seasons to work with. From my standpoint, of reading Jon Wilner and the SJ Mercury news, Cal had a major issue with academics which made SJSU's Coach more suitable for righting the ship. So what gives? Does it all fall back on Sandy Barbour or was there some other incentive/issue why the coaches went where they went?

Ted Miller: I think California athletic director Sandy Barbour had her choice between San Jose State's Mike MacIntyre and Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, and she simply preferred Dykes.

You can review her comments here.

Then Colorado jumped in and grabbed MacIntyre, a guy who seems like a perfect fit in Boulder after rebuilding a woebegone Spartans program.

If things don't work out with Dykes at Cal, and MacIntyre leads a football renaissance at Colorado, well, that won't go over well with the Old Blues. Or the young ones. Some view Dykes as a risky hire, and you are not the first with a MacIntyre query.

From our present perspective, my ever optimistic self sees both as good hires, though neither is the sort of blockbuster announcement that causes new-found enthusiasm to immediately boil over, as, say, Ohio State inspired when it hired Urban Meyer. But neither program is Ohio State, either.

As for why Barbour preferred Dykes specifically over MacIntyre, you'd be hard-pressed to get a detailed answer from Barbour that digs at MacIntyre.

It could have been a connection of personalities. It certainly seems Dykes made a strong impression during a three-hour interview that separated himself from the five other candidates who sat down with Barbour.

It could have been a preference for an offensive-minded guy over a defensive-minded guy, as MacIntyre is. It could have been Dykes' Pac-12 knowledge, having served three years as the offensive coordinator at Arizona from 2007-09.

Maybe there's some minor, obscure and unreported red flag that gave Barbour pause of MacIntyre. Or just Barbour's own hunch/instincts on the decision.

If you've ever hired someone, you know that after reviewing a number of strong resumes and conducting interviews, your ultimate decision is often based on a personal quirk. For example, I would never hire someone who smacks when he eats. Drives me freaking crazy. It should be legal to punch someone who smacks when he eats ... anyone with me on that?

Or someone who eats steak well-done. I heard a guy the other day order a ribeye well-done and I wanted to cry.

As for Dykes and Barbour: What we can say for certain is there is now more pressure on Barbour for Dykes to be successful than there is on Dykes himself.

Chris from Penticton, B.C., writes: Mike Riley to Wisconsin? Say it ain't so, Mike!

Ted Miller: It ain't so.

Lou from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Ted, In response to your response post criticizing Mike Leach's effort this year - I agree with you that Leach should have done better with what he had, this seasons was dismal. However I find your comparison of him to Graham, Mora, and Rich-Rod to be way off-base. There are so many internal things that go on with each specific program that no fan, or the media are aware of. To say that Leach failed because new coaches in the conference did better than him is ridiculous. Each football team is dynamically different. With that said, I think your article blasting Leach may have come from personal disappointment due to your desire to see Leach's high-octane offense excel immediately, not that you really think he is that big of a failure.

Ted Miller: I don't agree. Comparing the conduct and results of Leach and the other three new coaches is certainly valid. It's not about asking why Leach didn't win nine games, as Jim Mora did, it's about asking why his team did worst than it should have while Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez produced teams that overachieved in year one.

I think Mike Leach is a good football coach. I effused when he was hired. I've spent a lot of time over the past couple of months actually trying to talk some of my Coug fan friends back from the ledge of despair. I still think he's going to win in Pullman.

But I think he did a bad job this season. I'm certainly not alone in thinking that. And I think a lot of Washington State fans agree with me. In fact, that column was basically a condensed version of what I've heard -- over and over and over -- from Washington State fans this fall.

The most common observation: Leach's repeated and harsh calling out of his players achieved nothing positive. Nothing.

The obvious negative of colorfully ripping your players, of course, is that a game with no national interest, such as the 49-6 loss to Utah, suddenly becomes negative national news for your program and a multi-day story. Probably doesn't help recruiting, either.

Leach is going to be himself. He's not much for filtering his thoughts as they flow from his brain to his mouth.

Perhaps he should reconsider that, at least in some part. Perhaps his New Year's resolution should be that, going forward, when things go wrong with his football team, he will first blame the guy who makes $2.25 million a year for them not to go wrong before he lays into unpaid college students.

Craig from Seattle writes: This past season . . . which was the better division . . . . SEC West or Pac-12 North?

Ted Miller: SEC West.

The SEC West was a little bit better at the top (12-1 Alabama, 10-2 LSU and 10-2 Texas A&M vs. 11-1 Oregon, 11-2 Stanford and 9-3 Oregon State) and bottom (4-8 Arkansas and 3-9 Auburn vs. 3-9 California and 3-9 Washington State).

But it's closer than a lot of folks in the Southeast would admit.

Richard from Phoenix writes: [Picked from my chat]
Tim (ATL) Conventional wisdom is that Helfrich is the guy if CK leaves Oregon... how surprised would you be if someone else is hired? Obviously Christ Petersen always gets talked about, but do you think it is as open/shut helfrich's job as the rumors suggest?

Ted Miller (3:38 PM) If Phil Knight & Pat Kilkenny want Helfrich, then he'll be the guy... I think Petersen comes up a lot because it makes sense, and there's always been scuttlebutt that Petersen has long held Eugene in high esteem. I never think something like this is simply open and shut, but I do know that Helfrich has good backing and is highly thought of.

Ted-I don't know if you have been corrected yet, but Pat Kilkenny no longer is the AD at Oregon. It's Rob Mullens. Otherwise keep up the good work.

Ted Miller: I do know that, and Mullen is a very good athletic director, one who is going to consult the athletic department's two most influential boosters before he picks the next Oregon football coach (should he have to pick the next Oregon football coach).

You do know why they call the baseball field "PK Park," right?

I hear the second choice was "Pac-12 Blog Field."

Cal coaching search begins

November, 27, 2012
California, a week past the 11-year Jeff Tedford Era, is presently a program in limbo. It has a skeleton staff of five coaches trying to maintain a recruiting presence, while athletic director Sandy Barbour hopes she can manage a coaching search in total secrecy.

Even if she succeeds, that won't stop the blather. Media folks -- yes, that includes me -- will trot out lists of the usual suspects, and then the Internet will go wild with rumors, many of which will begin with, "I just talked to a guy [a big booster, someone in the athletic department, random insider, etc.] who said that Coach X is on his way to Berkeley to sign a contract!"

And "Coach X" is surely to be Boise State's Chris Petersen.

Cal has retained DHR International to lead the search. Typically, I'd slap my forehead over that because these search firms charge a lot of money for very little. But, as Jon Wilner reported, Glenn Sugiyama is handling Cal's account, and his track record includes former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre, who figures to get a look from Cal.

(Still, I bet Wilner, Kevin and I -- and a bottle of Lagavulin 16yr -- could give Cal just as good a list of candidates, with far more first-hand insight, for a gift certificate and a table at Chez Panisse on a Friday night).

[+] EnlargeCal's Jeff Tedford
Kelley L Cox/US PRESSWIRECal's hefty buyout of Jeff Tedford could make finding his replacement more of a challenge.
It will be interesting to see how Cal plays this. It is unlikely it will be able to afford to lure away a "big-name" coach, which would be expensive and subsequently would inspire many, many frowns on upper campus.

For example, Louisville coach Charlie Strong was essentially a runner-up to Tedford 11 years ago. He makes $2.3 million coaching a Big East team. Making that much in Louisville is equivalent to making $3.4 million in Oakland. Further, he has been connected to the vacancy at Arkansas, where he surely would take a substantial leap across the $3 million line.

The next tier is made up of up-and-coming college head coaches, top coordinators or perhaps an NFL coach looking to jump back to the college ranks for whatever reason.

Cost, again, is a big issue, and it's not just about the head coach. In fact, Cal administrators need to pay as much attention to the assistant coaches as the head coach. It should be one of the first interview questions: "We like your stuff. Give me 10 or 15 coaches you'd want to hire, starting with your coordinators."

Yet emphasizing a quality staff means budgeting about $1 million for offensive and defensive coordinators, and at least $1.4 million for the other seven positions. And these are conservative numbers, folks.

If you pay the head coach between $2.5 and $3 million, then you're talking about $5 million-plus annually for a quality staff, top-to-bottom. Meanwhile, Cal is paying off Tedford -- nearly $7 million -- and his former staff.

Doing this right ain't going to be cheap.

Still, there's plenty to sell California.

  • Brand new facilities that are outstanding. Among the best in the conference.
  • The program is on solid ground. There's enough talent on hand to make a quick turnaround, see UCLA.
  • Good recruiting area. The Bay Area isn't as rich as Southern California, but it's darn good.
  • A national brand as the nation's best public university. That means a chance to recruit nationally.
  • There is good fan support, and it isn't crazy-nutso, expecting every season to end with a BCS bowl victory.
  • And, of course, becoming Cal's coach means a chance to chat regularly with the Pac-12 blog. (Sandy, you can't undersell that!).

So now we trot out a list.

It's just a list. Barbour didn't email it to me. It might be useful/entertaining for Colorado fans, too.

Head coaches

Chris Petersen, Boise State: We couldn't leave him out! If I were a betting man, I'd say the only place that could lure him away from the comfort of Boise is Oregon. I do love this, though, a wonderful mix of journalism and unabashed fandom. Great effort guys.

Charlie Strong, Louisville: He's done a great job at Louisville, but the general feeling is he wants an SEC job.

Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State: He went 10-2 with a San Jose State program that was left for dead. It gave Stanford a better game than Cal did. The scuttlebutt on him is very good.

Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Dykes' team is 9-3 after losing to San Jose State -- score one for MacIntyre. He's a former Arizona offensive coordinator who learned offense from Mike Leach. Just a matter of time before he gets a big job.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: He's done a really nice job turning Fresno State (9-3) back around in one year. Just ask Colorado.

Art Briles, Baylor: Briles makes $2.5 million and seems to love Baylor. Defense not a selling point.

Gary Andersen, Utah State: Not only did Utah State go 10-2 this year -- beating Utah -- it lost to BYU and Wisconsin by a combined five points. Also something to be said for a guy who's been around for a while. He spent five seasons as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Utah, where he worked under Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.

Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: He took over a MAC power and is 22-4 in two seasons. Colorado also might be interested, but Doeren is a guy who is probably eyeballing a Big Ten job.

Darrell Hazell, Kent State: If you're going to list Doeren as a hot coaching candidate, as lots of folks do, how can you not list Hazell, who is a former Ohio State assistant in his second year leading a program that plays Northern Illinois for the MAC title on Friday? The Golden Flashes' last league title came in 1972. That 6-5-1 team, by the way, featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: A former Stanford assistant, he's done a great job building a respectable program at Western Kentucky.


Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon: How highly respected is Helfrich? He might be the top candidate to replace Chip Kelly if Kelly bolts for the NFL.

Noel Mazzone, offensive coordinator, UCLA: He's coached everywhere, but really has found his offensive legs the past few years. Made Brock Osweiler into an NFL QB at Arizona State, and appears to be doing the same with Brett Hundley at UCLA.

Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Stanford: He was part of the Jim Harbaugh transformation at Stanford, which included building an offense that emphasized a physical, downhill running game. He's worked with Andrew Luck, but his best selling point may be the midseason transition to redshirt freshman QB Kevin Hogan.

Derek Mason, defensive coordinator, Stanford: A frontrunner for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. He's built the Cardinal into a defensive power -- see the upset at Oregon on Nov. 17.

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington: Highly respected coordinator who rebuilt the Huskies defense from abysmal to pretty good this fall. Played at Oregon and coached at Cal, Boise State and Tennessee, so he knows the national landscape. It's only a matter of time before he gets a head coaching job.

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame: Have you seen the Notre Dame defense? 'Nuff said. Other than he seems like a guy who'll end up in the Big Ten.

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama: See Diaco. It also helps that he's coached under Nick Saban, so he knows how a national power conducts business.

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State: You want offense? The Cowboys are the answer to Oregon in the Big 12.

Lorenzo Ward, defensive coordinator, South Carolina: Steve Spurrier arrived at South Carolina as an offensive genius, but Ward is a big reason the Gamecocks are now known for defense. A great recruiter with a lot of charisma. Likely a guy who wants to stay in the SEC.


Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers: My mailbox suggests a lot of Cal fans are hoping this former Bear is done with the Panthers and wants to come back to Berkeley. Could be the latest incarnation of Pete Carroll/Jim Mora.

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers: What Chip Kelly is to the spread, Roman is to the Harbaugh-ian creativity of power football. You know: All those tight ends shifting around everywhere. He probably will be a top NFL candidate, too, which is a problem.

Hue Jackson, defensive backs, Cincinnati Bengals: Lots of college and NFL experience. He served one year as the Bears offensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci, and is a former Oakland Raiders head coach, so he knows the Bay Area.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
A few storylines to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this weekend:

1. All eyes on the North, via the South: Stanford and Oregon both have a shot to still win the North Division, though it's Stanford that is in the advantageous position of controlling its own destiny. The Cardinal can lock up the division with a win or an Oregon loss. Stanford will host the Pac-12 championship game against the Bruins if they win. Oregon will win the division and host the championship game if they win and Stanford loses. UCLA will host Stanford if it wins and Oregon loses.

2. Civil War: Plenty at stake in this game -- including Oregon's chances of playing for a national championship. The Ducks need some help to get back into one of two spots that could get them in the BCS Championship Game. But winning is a priority. The same can be said for the Beavers, who aren't out of the hunt for an at-large berth in a BCS game. If they are able to beat the Ducks, then they'd be in the top 14 and would be BCS eligible -- should a BCS game find them attractive. No promises, but it's better to be in the conversation than on the outside looking in.

3. About them Bruins: They are riding a five-game winning streak and are 3-0 against Top 25 teams. The offense continues to improve behind the play of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin -- recently named a Doak Walker Award finalist for the nation's top running back. Interestingly enough, this will be the second straight week Stanford has faced a Doak finalist, after going head-to-head with Oregon's Kenjon Barner last week. When asked about his first impressions of Stanford's defensive front, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said: "The '81 Bears. Or the '85 Bears. Whichever Bears team was really, really good."

4. About them Bruins II: I get what fans are saying about UCLA maybe playing conservative against Stanford -- not trying to lose -- but maybe keeping it closer to the vest anticipating a rematch with the Cardinal rather than having to face the Ducks in the conference title game. Even Ted made a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge at the idea in his prediction this morning. I'll say this -- it's bollocks. (I'd prefer to use stronger language, but decorum prohibits me. And yes, that was a nod to "Animal House.") Jim Mora won't coach his team to play less than 100 percent. He won't even hint at it. Anyone who has spent five minutes with the man (and I can assure you I've spent more than that) will tell you that's not how he operates. I think he wants to play Oregon. I think he wants to go through Autzen to win the conference championship and the Rose Bowl and cast an icy stare at everyone who questioned his hiring. I think he wants to tell recruits on the fence between Oregon, USC and UCLA that he stomped the Trojans and went into Autzen and took away the conference title from the Ducks. That's not to say UCLA can or will, but I expect the Bruins to come out with guns blazing in trying to win this game. Anything less would be cowardice. And you don't get to 9-2 and win your division by being cowardly. Any UCLA fan hoping for less than their team's total effort Saturday should be embarrassed.

5. Conference rivalries: The Cups, Apple and Territorial, have two very different feels this year. In Pullman, Wash., the Huskies, trending up and looking to end the regular season with eight wins, are in a much better place than the host Cougars. Washington State is still looking for its first conference win under new coach Mike Leach. In the desert, two new head coaches are getting their first tastes of the rivalry, and both already have their teams headed to the postseason in their first years. There are obviously bragging rights and recruiting implications that go along with this game. They have matching conference records (4-4), while Arizona is 7-4 overall to ASU's 6-5. You can nit-pick about who got the better hire. But I'd like to think we can agree on the fact that both teams got the best coaches for their schools and both have so far turned out to be great hires.

6. Nonconference: Say this for Max Wittek, the kid has got confidence. Nothing wrong with a little moxie before your first start. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said he expects quarterback Matt Barkley to return in time for a bowl game. Until then, it will be Wittek leading the Trojans against No. 1 Notre Dame. Six times the Trojans have knocked off an undefeated Notre Dame team -- twice when they were ranked No. 1. So there is a precedent. Oregon fans, now might be a good time to learn the words to "Fight On."

7. Budding rivalry? During the Pac-12 media day back in August -- which seemed like a lifetime ago -- media types were asking Utah and Colorado players about their rivalry. The players all sort of shrugged. One game, a rivalry does not make. It takes years of passion, glorious victories and gut-wrenching defeats. Ask the Utes how good that win over BYU felt this year. That doesn't mean one can't develop between these two teams over time. Colorado fired the first shot in the battle of conference newcomers last season. Neither team is headed to a bowl game, but a win in the finale would ease some of the pain -- even slightly -- of what has been a bummer of a season for both squads.

8. Post-Tedford, Day 1: California athletic director Sandy Barbour said the school has hired a search firm to help with selecting a new coach. She added that they have already received a great deal of interest since the news broke Monday morning. She also said they received a great deal of interest before Jeff Tedford was officially fired -- which she said they did not entertain. Obviously, making the right hire is critical. With the improved facilities (courtesy of the departed Tedford) Cal is a fairly attractive spot in one of the best conferences in college football. They'll get a jump on the hiring with the Bears' season already over, so I wouldn't expect a long, drawn-out search process.

Jeff Tedford doomed by Cal's recent slide

November, 20, 2012

For much of the past two seasons, as Jeff Tedford sat firmly on the proverbial hot seat, the question was whether California could afford to fire its winningest coach. There was no buyout in Tedford's contract, so it would cost nearly $7 million to dispatch him, and that didn't include paying off his coaching staff.

And, of course, there were issues of loyalty. Tedford transformed a program that went 1-10 and played in a crumbling, half-empty stadium the season before he arrived, building it into a consistent winner that could afford massive facility upgrades.
On Tuesday, Cal administrators concluded that they couldn't afford not to fire Tedford, who completes the longest continuous, and current, tenure in the Pac-12 with an 82-57 record in 11 seasons in Berkeley.

The reasons for the not-unexpected firing are obvious. Tedford is 15-22 overall and 9-18 in Pac-12 play since going 8-5 in 2009. The Bears went 3-9 this year, the worst record of Tedford's tenure, including a five-game losing streak to end the season. Crowds at newly remodeled Memorial Stadium were dwindling, threatening Cal's Endowment Seating Program, which was supposed to play a central role for financing the stadium renovation.

Over the past four seasons, California lost 16 games by at least 17 points, and it is riding a three-game losing streak in the Big Game to Bay Area rival Stanford, which could end up in its third consecutive BCS bowl game this January.

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireJeff Tedford's Bears lost their final five games to finish 3-9 -- the head coach's worst season at Cal.
The program has been in a downward trend and showed no signs this season of reversing that negative momentum. Fans were turning away just when they -- and their money -- were needed most. So, it was decided, a coaching change was critical to reverse the tide.

“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, one that required a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of factors,” Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said in a statement. “Ultimately, I believed that we needed a change in direction to get our program back on the right track. Cal football is integral to our department and our university, and its influence can be felt well beyond the walls of Memorial Stadium."

So what's next? Well, Cal first has to decide how much it's willing to pay.

Tedford's 2012 salary is $2.3 million, which is a lot to most of us but not that much among elite coaches, particularly when you adjust for the Bay Area's cost of living. That's like making $1.6 million if you lived in Tuscaloosa, Ala. If Cal wants to pursue, say, Cincinnati's Butch Jones, they'd have to pay him $2.3 million just to match the value of Jones' current $1.6 million salary.

A front-line head coach likely will cost at least $2.5 million to $3 million. And then you have to hire his staff. Top coordinator salaries have risen to between $500,000 and $1 million. Washington is paying defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox $750,000 this year.
So this could get expensive.

Of course, the Bears also could do what they did when they hired Tedford away from Oregon: Find a hot coordinator.

Names you likely will hear: Wilcox, Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason.

Bears fans have been frustrated by Cal's QB play since Aaron Rodgers went to the NFL. Well, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone rebuilt two offenses -- and two QBs -- in the past two seasons (at Arizona State and now with the Bruins).

Then you could trot out some other hot names in no particular order: Charlie Strong, Louisville; Art Briles, Baylor; Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech; Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky; and Gary Andersen, Utah State.

And coordinators: Kirby Smart, Alabama; Chad Morris, Clemson; Todd Monken, Oklahoma State; Brent Venables, Clemson; Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina; Kalani Sitake, Utah; Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State.

Or Cal could look to the NFL.

From the Cal statement: "Barbour said that a national search for a new head coach, which will be aided by the firm of DHR International, will begin immediately. She did not indicate a timetable for hiring a replacement, adding that Cal Athletics will have no further comment on the search until a new coach has been selected."

Tedford will land on his feet. He is plenty respected among other coaches. Don't be surprised if he lands another job in a major conference. Or the NFL.

He has proved he can build a program. As we've previously noted, in 24 seasons before he arrived in Berkeley -- 1978 to 2004 -- Cal won three or fewer games 10 times while winning seven or more games four times. Tedford suffered just two losing seasons in 11 years and has won 10 games twice and nine games once. Before he took over, Cal's last winning season came in 1993.

But football is a zero-sum game. You either win or you lose. Tedford set an early pattern of winning, but losing was the recent trend. The program seemed to plateau, then slide.

Further, Stanford's fortunes were rising, as were other Pac-12 teams with new coaches, such as UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State.

In the big business of college football, losing isn't accepted, particularly when rivals are winning.



Thursday, 9/4
Friday, 9/5
Saturday, 9/6