This season, there is but to do or die

This is it for Jeff Tedford.

In his 11th year as the head coach of the Cal football team, Tedford has one more chance to prove he’s the right coach to keep his team headed in the right direction.

Regardless of what bloggers and cynics have wanted you to believe, Tedford has never been on the hot seat. Since 2007, he has progressively lost support from his once enamored fan base, and many have called for his head. But he never lost the support of his most important fan: Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.

Barbour has legitimate reasons for supporting Tedford, as he single handedly resurrected the school’s most visible sports team. He has since run a clean program in an otherwise filthy period of college football, making Barbour’s job a whole lot easier.

Even when angry alumni came knocking at her door, Barbour never had to actually put Tedford on the hot seat, pointing to what the coach did for the school in his first few seasons and reminding everyone of the horrid facilities he had to work with.

But those excuses won’t work anymore. Not after a $321 million renovation of Memorial Stadium to go along with a state-of-the-art high performance center.

Ironically, the buildings that Tedford has spent 10 years begging for have put him on the hot seat. The athletic department has held up its end of the bargain, now it’s time for Tedford to put up results.

He currently has three years left on his contract, which gives him three years to prove he’s still the right guy for this football team. The fact that he just listed his $5.35 million home in nearby Danville on the market doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

The impact that Tedford has had on Cal football cannot be ignored or forgotten — but it can be considered irrelevant. The new stadium was his reward, but it came with an expectation that he wasn’t content with 6-6 and 7-5 seasons.

He’s just been handed the keys to a brand new Ferrari, and if all he wants to do is continue to drive 55 miles an hour in the slow lane, people are going to start to wonder what was the point of spending all that money when he could just be doing that in his old Geo Metro. Why waste all that cash?

And if he won’t drive it fast, I’m sure there’s a Mario Andretti out there somewhere, salivating at the prospect of building a thriving program worthy of those brand new facilities. But before his parents take the keys away, Tedford gets one more shot to prove that he’s got what it takes.

The upcoming season is a prime one for Tedford to make a statement. There are three games where Cal will likely be a significant underdog: on the road against Ohio State and USC and in a home tilt with Oregon. Apart from that, the nine remaining games are completely winnable. If Tedford can just hold his own and avoid any embarrassing losses while picking up at least eight wins, it should alleviate some of the pressure that he’s been feeling.

Anything less will be yet another disappointment. And the Cal athletic department, alongside its alumni and donors, didn’t just spend $321 million to be disappointed. While heartbreak and embarrassment is a familiar place for Cal fans, it will likely be met with a greater sense of urgency this time around.

So Saturday marks the beginning of Tedford’s last chance. It’s time to put the pedal down to the floor, or step out of the driver’s seat.