Cal football team surprised, saddened by decision to fire Tedford

Many members of the Cal football team were blindsided by Tuesday's announcement that Jeff Tedford would no longer be head coach.
Michael Tao/File
Many members of the Cal football team were blindsided by Tuesday's announcement that Jeff Tedford would no longer be head coach.

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When Kendrick Payne was informed of a 10 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, he had no idea what was about to unfold.

It was a surprise meeting, but it never occurred to the senior defensive lineman that his coach would be fired — not Tuesday, not this season.

“It’s a lot to deal with, being blindsided by it,” Payne said by phone Tuesday. “It definitely kind of caught me off guard.”

It was only after he saw Jeff Tedford at the team meeting, noticed his expression and heard him mention something about “not being too emotional” that Payne came to the cold, hard reality: Tedford had been fired.

Tedford told the team that a decision had been made that morning. He told the players that he cared about them, that despite everything, he knew the caliber of talent in the room. He said he wanted to see the players succeed in the future and assured them that there would always be a part of him with the program.

When he was done speaking, the players gave him a standing ovation.

“Everyone really respects Coach a lot ­­— we all love Coach a lot,” said freshman offensive lineman Jordan Rigsbee on Tuesday. “It really meant a lot to us to get to send him off in that way, so that was nice.”

Nick Forbes called the meeting emotional. The sophomore linebacker said that the players could tell that Tedford was being genuine and speaking from the heart.

Like Payne, Forbes was not expecting to see his coach fired.

“It was a little bit surreal at first,” Forbes said. “Kind of one of those things, like, big storm coming, can’t really know how it’s gonna be until it hits. It’s been tough.”

Forbes remembers Tedford’s home visit during recruiting as if it were yesterday. He recalls Tedford sitting down with Forbes, his mother and his two sisters.

Payne recounted the nights he would see Tedford in his office, knowing he was either leaving late or not going home.

“Over the course of the season, we see he hurts just as much as us,” Payne said. “It hurt me personally to see him like that — he’s my leader, he’s my coach.”

After Tedford finished talking Tuesday morning, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour addressed the team. She urged the players to talk to her if there was anything they needed.

“They need time to figure out their emotions,” she said at Tuesday’s afternoon press conference. “I would expect nothing less than them being disappointed.”

Rigsbee said there are no hard feelings. He said the squad understands that it is a business.

Still, the team is losing more than a coach. The players lose a monumental figure in their lives, their leader and friend.

“Life goes on,” Payne said. “Coach Tedford, he’ll be all right. He knows he’s loved. He says he’ll be rooting for us, wherever he goes, and we’ll be rooting for him.”

Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]

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  • MondayQB57

    By the way, since we are getting rid of coaches, we should get rid of Wes Chandler. I was sicken to see Treggs run a 3 yard route on a third-and-four and a 2 yard route on a third-and-three. We can’t dump Treggs so we may as well dump the coach. I’ve always believed that we should play a smart game because we don’t want to look stupid when we lose. We’ve looked stupid all year long.

  • I was definitely pulling for this move but it’s cool to see that the football players were behind him.

  • MondayQB57

    I’m speechless but elated. I have no felt this relieved since Braun was terminated. I thought it would never happen. It’s been five years overdue. Tedford was his worse enemy. He was out-hustled by Mack Brown in 2004. His take a knee approach caused us to miss style points in the BCS race. In the past five years, Tedford has been unable to use the strengths of the receivers and runners and allow them to make plays. Bill Walsh, who won at every level, used the pass to set up the run. Tedford used the run to set up the pass. And you know the results. Finally, no more agony in the seats. The next coach might not be any better but he certainly can’t be worse.

  • Game On

    What with them calling him “Teddy” to his face and with his encouragement, I’m not surprised he had a lot of buddies on the team. The team didn’t need a buddy, though, they needed a leader. The penalties, the mental errors, the long tongues at game’s end all imply that’s not what they had. We need to change that.

    My money is still on Belotti. He’s proven in the Montgomery mold as a winner and he ran a program with a good graduation rate; at least, better than what we have now. He’s what Barbour likes and she’s got a pretty good track record when it comes to choosing. (Not so great in negoiating contracts, but that’s another story). Belotti is also available now (I believe) and isn’t likely the target for Tennessee or a Kelly-less Oregon.

    Would he come? Montgomery did. Evidently Sandy Barbour can be persuasive. Too old? Nah. 70 is the new 50. Beyond Belotti? Look for someone who’s proven at a BCS conference level: Petersen, Patterson, or Riley. #2 in my book is Mike Riley but any of those wouldn’t be available until mid-January; too close to the LOI date and that’s a problem. Long shot? Not Jackson, Edwards, Rivera or any of the other names being thrown around (well, maybe Edwards would be worth a look, but probably no). The longshot would be Gruden. If she’s gonna go big with someone untested in college, he’s likely the dude: NO player is likely to call him Jonny. At least, not a second time. That is what we need and Barbour likely knows it.

    Would Gruden come? Like I said, “longshot”. Like I also said, though “persuasive” so don’t count him out regardless of his ginormous current paycheck. Above all, keep in mind that Cal is now THE premier open spot in college football currently (and, yes, that *does* include Tennesse). We’ve got the weather, the best living area in the country, facilities second to none, money, a tolerant hands-off AD, the 2nd greatest academic reputation in any BCS conference school AND the most upside of ANY head coaching position in the nation. All of that will sell itself to just about any candidate and (with the *right* coach) any recruit in the nation.

    It is our world and other schools — with or without a head coach now — are only renting space; all we are missing is the swagger that the right coach will bring. Never forget that.

    • MondayQB57

      Belotti wold not work. Academics at Oregon is a world apart from Cal so his success in that department is not a good gauge. Also, Belotti hasn’t taken the Ducks to the promised land – the Rose Bowl.

    • Let’s hope for better Cal

      Belotti is the WRONG choice for Cal for many reasons. Look what happened to Oregon after he left. 4 years going to BCS and/or National Championship game would not have been possible with Blotti. Cal needs someone who’s innovative and capable of igniting interest nationwide. Some one like Peterson, Gruden, or Pete Carol (my favorite) if possible.

  • loverpoint

    Like they say; It is a business. I have read so many of the posts from current players and ex-players and all that posted express their admiration and love of Tedford. I’m sure he is a very nice person. Jeff Tedford was warmly received by the fan base and they gave him and the team their utmost support. On 60 Minutes 11/18/12 they did a show about the importance of college and universities football programs as a vital means of income. Although the show was primarily about Michigan, they did mention Cal and the money they had spent on their retro fitted stadium and training facilities.

    There are several things that made Tedfords release necessary. They had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on training facilities and coaches for the sole purpose of attracting the best athletes in every sport to Cal- which in turn generates more income to the university. From the looks of things it has worked in other sports as Cal keeps attracting top recruits in Aquatic Sports, track and field, Rugby, Baseball, Basketball, the one thing that went downhill rather fast was the quality of Football recruits. Everything pointed to Tedford, Cal was going down hill in football when they had been promised that spending all that money would have just the opposite effect.

    All I can say to all you potential Cal Football Head Coaches: If you were to come to Cal and win a Rose Bowl you would surely be the toast of the town. If you were to win a national championship for Cal then you would be vaulted into the loft pillars of Football Coaching HOF as Bill Walsh, John Madden, George Seifert, Jim Harbaugh.

  • Guest

    I fail to see how the most penalized team in the conference can go on record as “respecting” their coach. If you respect your coach, you play as a team, and if you play as a team, you don’t rack-up penalties. I agree with “mysides,” this group/team is pretty dumb not to know Tedford was in the hot seat.

  • Blue_Wave

    Wow. I just have a hard time believing all the horrid and hateful comments regarding Coach Tedford, that’s just sad, and says more about those folks making them than it does about him.

    • Game On

      Teddy has *multiple* millions to soothe his hurt feelings over those calling attention to his inadequacies.

      Dude, this is a business; you either perform or hit the bricks as a multi-millionaire.

      BEFORE you go all bleeding heart over said multi-millionaire’s hurt feelings though; give some thought to the tens/hundreds of careers Tedford stepped on with his incompetence. Like Djax, for instance. No way he should’ve dropped to the 2nd round BUT FOR Tedford. Likely, Allen will follow too. Or Kevin Riley who Tedford mentally shattered so thoroughly that he left a considerably worse QB than when he came. How about Steve Levy. Maybe not ever an NFL candidate but a heck of a QB who performed beautifully when he finally got the opportunity … in the 12th game of the season. Tedford’s stubborness robbed him and it robbed us; saddling us with Joe Ayoob.

      ‘Nuf said.

  • A happy alum

    In the long run, the players will come to appreciate that firing of Tedford was the best thing for Cal football program, the players, and the university as a whole. Hopefully, they’ll get a new head coach who will develop the team both athletically and academically. the players will realize how shameful it is for Cal alum to know that Cal football’s graduation success rate is the last in Pac-12. Which is or should be unacceptable.

    Go Bears

  • loverpoint

    ” I’m glad he is gone”, he was not fired because of personality he was fired because he reached his plateau as to how far he could take Cal. The supposed QB Guru never molded Aaron Rodgers, Rodgers was a stroke of fate or luck for Tedford. But after that his QB’s continued to go down in performance as Cal became overly dependent on RB’s. Like I’ve said many times Tedfords true downfall came because he started players based on favoritism instead of skill, and Zach Maynard is what brought Tedford down. Tedford made a deal to start Maynard if Maynard would convince Allen to come to Cal. When Tedford came to Cal the league was a lot different, USC was the perennial powerhouse, everyone else was mediocre or bad. It was easy for him to Beat Stanford and make it to a Bowl game, and of coarse everyone thought Tedford was a god when he beat USC, but that was a long time ago. I the last 6 years or so every school in the Pac-12 has made strides to improve their team by hiring new coaches, now surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly those schools with their new coaches are overtaking Cal.

    Like I have posted before at Cal sites, my father lived his life waiting for Cal to go to a Rose Bowl and the Giants to win a World Series, he lived long enough to see the Giants accomplish their goal. But we often wondered if winning the Rose Bowl was ever a goal of Cal. I wonder about the current speculation as to who would take Tedfords place, I hear some say that Cal needs some young up and coming coach, probably hoping that they will find the next Jim Harbaugh. The problem is will that coach be a very good recruiter, I want recruits to come to Cal not only because of what the University offers in education, but also because of the Head Coach and not the defensive line coach, like the embarrassing situation with Tosh Lupoi. That might have been the second reason Tedford was fired, apparently his name alone was not that big a deal for attracting recruits…… My dream pick for Cals new HC would be Steve Mariucci or maybe a Jon Gruden……the question is do either really like coaching or only talking about coaching? We can see that Jim Mora Jr. truly likes coaching, he had been begging for a team to hire him, yes I remember him and Brian Billick talking about how much they missed coaching, and since it seemed like Mora had worn out his welcomes in the NFL he took the next best thing- UCLA- they will win the PAC-12 South and Mora should be going to a high profile Bowl game and from what I see he is getting lots of verbal commits from recruits.

    • I_h8_disqus

      Nice post. Personally, I would prefer to look for the next head coach from experienced college coaches. I want someone who has shown they can recruit and lead a team. Before Ohio State got him last season, I would have liked Cal to go after Urban Meyer. I really think it is time for Cal to take the next step, and getting a head coach of the level of Meyer, Nick Saban, or Les Miles is that next step. There are also some incredible assistant coaches in the major programs who could probably do a lot for Cal. Cal showed for a couple years that they could be a top 10 team, and now we need a coach who can consistently give us that kind of performance.

      • loverpoint

        If Cal had gone after Urban Meyer and pulled him in to replace Tedford they would be sitting on a recruiting gold mine and probably be considered the top team in the PAC-12.

        The only big name I hear out there that sounds realistic is Chris Peterson of Boise St. His record at Boise is 82-8. If he could do with one of the talented Cal QB’s what he did with Kellen Moore then that QB would probably go #1 in the draft, instead of not even being drafted by a NFL team like what happened to Moore, he is now a walk-on at Detroit. Peterson’s name alone would suck in recruits from all around the country, some of the big name recruits out there would dump schools they have given verbal commits to and come on board of Cal. Along with Cal’s current roster of players Peterson should be able to turn Cal around within 2 years, Mora was able to do it in one year in a weak Pac-12 South. His teams at Cal would also get more respect than the lack of respect Boise gets. Boise can have perfect seasons and not be invited to the National Championship, if he were at Cal and they went undefeated they would play in a national championship. Peterson has also shown that his teams can beat the big schools like Oregon. Not only should Cal be pursuing Peterson, but his presence in the Pac-12 would make it even a stronger division.

        • I_h8_disqus

          I am on board with Peterson. He has done really well in college football without a lot. He grew up and went to college in northern California, so he might be up for living around Cal. His name has already started popping up in the rumor mill of the sports blogs. There are also rumors about 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. However, I still prefer a college coach who will not eventually want to bolt to the NFL. So I also like the talk about Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier.

          • Game On

            Wilsey, Kapp, Theder, Gilbertson, Holmoe, Tedford … ALL the spectacular failures at Cal have been assistant coaches with zero head coaching experience. Hopefully, we have learned from this experience.

            Years ago, we had no choice but to settle for an assistant and hope for the best that never came. Not now.

          • I_h8_disqus

            FYI, Gilbertson had head coaching experience before Cal. However, I do understand what you are saying. I wouldn’t consider an assistant unless they were a coordinator from the top football programs. That is why I only mentioned the coordinator from Alabama.

        • MondayQB57

          loverpoint, I’ve seen eye-to-eye with you all season. However, I respectfully disagree on Mooch. He has been out of coaching too long and he doesn’t have that hungry look. Our team did not have that hungry look all season until the defense finally decided to show up to play against Oregon. Stanford has to thank us because we really beat up Oregon. Granted, the score was not close but you can see our defense was gassed when the Tedford high-powered offense went 3-and-out for the umpteenth time.

  • Floating

    Seriously? The graduation rate is half… HALF. This guy is definitely more of a “friend” to the team than a true coach. Hope these players get over the fact that he is gone and move on, maybe even pick up some real discipline from the next coach.

  • mysides

    “it never occurred to the senior defensive lineman that his coach would be fired”

    conclusion: the guys on the football team really are dumber than dirt