Program’s winningest coach rebuilt program

Jonathan Kuperberg

SAN FRANCISCO — Jeff Tedford has been through a lot in his 10 years as the Cal football team’s head coach, but answering questions in front of reporters on Saturday nearly brought him to tears.

Cal had just routed Presbyterian, 63-12, and the win was Tedford’s 75th, making him the winningest coach in Cal football history.

He had trouble holding it together.

“It’s very nice,” he said, before pausing to sniffle and regain his composure. “It has a lot to do with all the players and coaches over the last nine years and three games. That’s who really deserves the credit, all the players who have played the game.”

Although he might not admit it, Tedford deserves at least a smidgen of credit.

When he replaced Tom Holmoe as head coach in 2002, the Bears were coming off a 1-10 season in which they went winless in conference play.

“It’s gone by quickly,” Tedford said. “I didn’t really think about it until this week.”

Now, as a result of the expectations the squad has established under Tedford, a sub-.500 season like last year’s, is a travesty.

No, he hasn’t led Cal to a Rose Bowl, but without him, would Cal fans even be discussing it?

If you don’t think 75 wins is a lot, consider this. If a team wins six games a year — an average amount — it would take 12 and a half seasons to reach 75. Tedford did it in nine year and three games. And he only had one campaign with fewer than seven victories.

The man rebuilt the program has watched it slip in the past two years, but is still working. Top recruits still want to come to Berkeley to play for coach Tedford. He had a variety of reasons for doing so, but five-star recruit Keenan Allen still turned down an Alabama squad coming off a national championship to become a Bear.

And Tedford is going back to basics this season, spending more time coaching the quarterbacks and doing more of the play-calling.

Besides, it’s hard to keep a program as a championship contender, or perennially in the top-20, for a prolonged period of time these days.

Stanford’s past two years of eliteness is largely based on two superstar players, running back Toby Gerhart and quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

It seemed like USC’s run of dominance would never end, but the Trojans haven’t made a Rose Bowl since 2008. And with their shaky play thus far — and sanctions — it doesn’t appear that they will make one anytime soon.

UCLA is in much more fertile recruiting ground in Los Angeles, but has really only had one good season since its 1998 Rose Bowl team.

The Cal program has stability under Tedford.

There have been no sanctions. No wins have been vacated.

And in this day and age, that is rarity.

So is a college coach with the tenure of Tedford.

Some coaches go off to seemingly greener pastures (Jim Harbaugh). Some run away from problems (Pete Carrol). Some are run out of town (Karl Dorrell).

Tedford has stayed with Cal because it is his family, figuratively and literally.

“There are so many guys, not just the star players, each and every player over the past 10 years who have been on this football team and helped us prepare,” Tedford said, still deflecting praise.

“Over the years, it’s been a family affair. The support of my wife, my kids has always been there. That makes it extra special.”

So did Quinn Tedford, a wide receiver on the team, making his first career catch on Saturday. The coach’s son had not recorded any statistics other than participation before he caught a five-yard pass in the fourth quarter.

A more perfect scenario might have involved the coach’s son scoring a touchdown. But Quinn was a long way from the end zone.

So, in a sense, is Jeff.

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  • zedoc

    I’m not quite so impressed. I think it has been downhill for Cal since Aaron Rodgers left. And it has come at the cost of Memorial Stadium and the Oak Grove.

    Personally, I’d rather have Memorial Stadium and the trees. 

    • Anonymous

      Memorial Stadium needed to be retrofitted for safety reasons. 

  • Anonymous

    Has it been Tedford who has been the great recruiter or has it been his staff? Tedford seems like a nice guy, my biggest question about him is ability to take Cal to the next level. 

    • Anonymous

      Lets see if Cal can recruit Shaq Thompson and a few 4 or 5 star offensive linemen.

  • It is worth pointing out that before Tedford, NCAA rules prevented Cal from playing D2 teams and Tedford has pioneered at Cal the placing of patsies on the schedule.

    Take away those 2-3 games per year and replace with with more challenging competition and Tedford’s record would decrease considerably.

    It is also worth pointing out that most coaches prior to Tedford played 9 – 11 games per year and there’s another 10 – 20 games that Tedford picked up undeservedly in his record.

    The REAL measure of his coaching ability is how he has performed against PAC competition and, in the last 5 years, the answer is not too well. In fact, in the past 4 seasons Tedford has a losing record in the conference.

    To put this in perspective, Tedford charged Cal $470,000 per win last year and in the PAC-10, only $C’s Kiffin charged more…$500,000. Of course, $C *had* to sweeten the coaching pot due to their NCAA problems. So, bottom-line, Tedford is THE most expensive coach in the PAC-12. Is Tedford worth it? Cal could have a losing record in the conference with a far less expensive coach so, no, he is not.

    If this is an award in preparation to kick this clown out the door, then fine. Otherwise, it is SO not deserved.

    • Anonymous

      Jack I agree with you about Tedfords inability to beat the top Pac-10 teams, he had a great run of beating Stanford when they were a cellar dwellar, show me you can beat Luck as Junior. Tedford, Barbour and Cal seem content on just getting into bowl games no matter what their record is . I not only think Tedford is overpaid but so are all collegiate coaches. The pay and perks of college are the equivalent to many Pro coaching salaries.

      As far as the number of wins and wins against weaker opponents and longer seasons, the same can be said of many coaches and teams. I judge a coach by the number  times he has finished in the top 3 of his conference and the number of major bowls he has been invited to and won.  

      Cal has not beat USC since Rodgers was the QB, if ever there was an opportunity for them to beat USC it would be this year. But for now I’d be glad to see them get past Washington.  

    • Eron

      Most major college programs, particularly in tough conferences,  schedule some creampuffs early on.  We have also plays some tough teams like Tennessee – so that criticism is totally unfair. 

      No doubt Cal Football has struggled some lately, but historically speaking Tedford is outstanding.  No one has done what he has done in the modern era.  He could have easily left for greener pastures and made more money in the NFL.

      I went to Cal in the 80’s and we had one winning season that decade.  Tedford made our football program legitimate and has done a lot for the University as a whole all while doing it the right way and significantly increasing player graduation rates.  USC and Pete Carroll paid for some excellent teams during Tedford tenure so it hasn’t always been a level playing field. 

      Tedford has produced some top level teams without a lot of  institutional or alumni support and at a school that has been a chronic bottom dweller in the modern era.

      Your comment is stupid.

    • Anonymous

      It seems like for the last several years Cal has started out like they have this year 3-0 getting fans hopes up. The question now is raised; is Cal the real deal? Can they beat an up and coming team like Washington? will they after their next 4 games have a record of 3-4 or 6-1?  What a great moral boost for Cal to go into their bye week 4-0. They will at least have an extra week to prepare for the same old Oregon/USC blockade they have faced in recent years. The blockade that has taken the wind out of Cal’s sails with demoralizing loses. It seems like when Cal loses to both of these teams back to back that they have a hard time recouping. If they don’t beat at least one of these teams then the game against Utah might be just as bad. If Cal finishes #5 or #6 in the Pac-12 North then I think Cal should look for another Athletic Director and a new football head coach.

    • Anonymous

      Just for reference; Bob Stoops of Oklahoma just got a contract extension. $34.5 million over 7 years. I wonder how the folks in Oklahoma feel considering the average wage and cost of living in Oklahoma is a lot cheaper than California. Like I said; I think the NCAA needs to put a cap on coaching salaries.