Tedford gets the axe after worst season at Cal

Jeff Tedford was fired from head coaching responsibilities Tuesday morning following his worst season at Cal.
Jeff Tedford was fired from head coaching responsibilities Tuesday morning following his worst season at Cal.

When the dust had settled on the Cal football team’s worst season of Jeff Tedford’s 11-year tenure, the Bears lost more than nine games — they lost their head coach, too.

Tedford, 51, was fired Tuesday morning, three days after Cal’s season-ending defeat at Oregon State. The 62-14 loss, the worst of the Tedford era, capped off a 3-9 campaign — the Bears’ second losing season in three years.

“The current state of our program is not what our student-athletes, fans and community deserve,” said Athletics Director Sandy Barbour at a Tuesday press conference in Haas Pavilion. “My decision was based on what I consider to be right and best for our student-athletes.”

Tedford leaves as Cal’s all-time winningest coach at 82-57. A figure revered by many, Tedford brought the program newfound national prominence in the mid-2000s, just missing out on the Rose Bowl in 2005 and winning a share of the Pac-12 title in 2006. In recent years, however, the program has deteriorated under his watch.

After winning seven of Tedford’s first eight Big Games, the Bears have lost the last three, including their lowest Big Game point total since 1998 in this season’s 21-3 outing. Cal lost five straight games to end the 2012 campaign for the first time in 28 years. The combined margin was 212-74.

As distressing is the squad’s graduation rate. At 48 percent, it is the lowest in the league.

“I certainly wanted the answer to be Jeff,” Barbour said. “It’s a matter of, did I believe that we could turn around some of these worrisome trends competitively and academically? And ultimately my conclusion was it wouldn’t be.”

Barbour said that no state funds or student fees will go to the new coach’s contract.

Formerly the state’s highest-paid employee, Tedford was making about $2.3 million a year. As per his contract, the Cal athletic department is obligated to pay him at least $5.4 million if he looks for and is unable to find employment.

“I will never forget the most gratifying part of these last 11 years, and that has been the relationships with the players I have had the special opportunity to watch grow academically, physically, socially and spiritually,” Tedford said in a statement. “To watch this process and be a part of their growth and development has been a blessing.”

Since he was hired in December of 2001, Tedford lobbied for Memorial Stadium to be renovated and eventually saw that $321 million project come to fruition this fall. But Tedford and the Bears were in for a rude homecoming on Sept. 1 when they lost to Nevada, 31-24, to open the 2012 season at the refurbished stadium.

Cal did not win its first FBS game of the year until Oct. 6 and ended the season as the country’s second-most penalized and fifth-most sacked team — both numbers that suggest a lack of discipline within the program.

On the Sunday after Cal’s final 2012 game, Barbour met with Tedford to discuss the state of the program and the necessary steps for future success. They met again Monday with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance John Wilton.

By Tuesday morning, Barbour had made her decision, and she informed Tedford the next morning. The two later held a meeting to address the team.

“He served his University admirably, and I will forever be indebted for his commitment and expertise, as well as the positive impact he has made in so many young men’s lives over the years,” Barbour said.

Five assistant coaches were retained, including running back guru Ron Gould and offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik.

Barbour said her national search for a new head coach will be aided by head-hunting firm DHR International and begin immediately.

“This is a great job,” Barbour said. “It’s been made better by Jeff Tedford.”

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