The Era Begins
In December 2001, Jeff Tedford inherits from former coach Tom Holmoe a Cal football program that went 1-10 in 2001 and hadn’t earned a winning season since 1993. In Tedford’s first game at the helm, the Bears blow out Baylor, 70-22. Tedford later takes the team to a 7-5 record in 2002. At the end of the season he signs a contract to extend his tenure until 2007 and earns Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
In 2003, after going 7-6 on the season — including a triple overtime stunner against USC that resulted in a Cal win — the Bears make their first bowl game since 1996. In the Insight Bowl, Cal narrowly tops Virginia Tech, 52-49.
Height of Glory
Continuing their upward trajectory, the Bears finish out the season with a 10-2 record and the No. 9 ranking in both the AP poll and the Coaches poll. Despite his team’s loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, Tedford wins Pac-10 Coach of the Year for the second time.
A Shadow Befalls
Despite the success of Cal’s 2004 campaign, a shadow descends upon the team at the end of the season. With a legitimate shot at making the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1959, Cal and its fans are ecstatic. However, Texas head coach Mack Brown begins lobbying for his team to earn the berth, and in the end Cal is edged out.
Close to History
The Bears’ 2006 campaign is one for the history books. Cal not only remains undefeated at home but also launches an eight-game winning streak at one point in the season. For the first time since 1975, the Bears are co-champions of the Pac-10 conference. After the season, Tedford signs a contract extension that increases his base salary to $1.8 million.
Start of Disaster?
In Corvallis, Ore., disaster strikes in 2007. Ranked No. 2 before the tilt with Oregon State, Cal sends out Kevin Riley for his first career start. In the second half, after No. 1 LSU falls, the Bears are the top team in the country. With Cal trailing, 31-28, Riley gets the team in a position for a touchdown with seconds left on the clock. Instead, he runs off the field and runs out the clock, killing Cal’s shot at national dominance.
With a 5-7 record, including a three-loss skid to finish out the season, the Bears post their first losing season in the Tedford era and fail to make a bowl game. The team also adds insult to injury with its worst Big Game loss in 80 years in a 48-14 rout. The Bears snap a seven-year bowl streak.
Flicker of Hope
In the third contest of the 2011 season, Tedford becomes the winningest coach in Cal history. The Bears go on to finish out the season 7-5 and earn a berth in the Holiday Bowl, which they lose to Texas, 21-10. But suspect losses such as a 31-14 loss to UCLA still leave the potential of the program in question.
Reversal of Fate
After spending the 2011 season playing home games at AT&T Park, Cal loses its first game in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium. For the second time in three years, Cal will finish out the season with a losing record and will fail to make a bowl appearance. Tedford insists that the state of the program is fine and this is just a down year.