Cal fires Jeff Tedford after 11 years at the helm

Gracie Malley/File
Gracie Malley/File

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Jeff Tedford, the winningest coach in Cal football history, has been fired, according to Athletics Director Sandy Barbour.

The move comes on the heels of the Bears’ 3-9 season, Tedford’s worst in Berkeley.

“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, one that required a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of factors,” Barbour said in a statement late Tuesday morning. “Ultimately, I believed that we needed a change in direction to get our program back on the right track.”

After putting together eight consecutive winning seasons under Tedford, the squad has failed to make the postseason in two of the last three years. Cal lost its final five games of the 2012 season for the first time since 1984. The combined margin was 212-74.

Formerly the state’s highest-paid employee, Tedford, 51, 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.”

During his 11-year tenure as Cal’s head coach, Tedford lobbied for Memorial Stadium to be renovated and eventually saw that $321 million project come to fruition this fall. After a playing 2011 home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Tedford and the Bears were in for a rude homecoming on Sept. 1 when they lost to Nevada, 31-24, in the 2012 season opener at the refurbished stadium.

The Bears did not win their first FBS game this season until the Oct. 6 Homecoming game against UCLA. After shocking the No. 25 Bruins in Berkeley and defeating Washington State on the road, Cal looked like it had turned its season around.

The squad did not win another game.

The 2012 season included the squad’s lowest-scoring Big Game since 1998 and its biggest loss of the Tedford era, a 48-point defeat to Oregon State on Saturday to close out the fateful campaign. Nationally, the Bears rank second in penalties and fourth in sacks.

In 2002, following Cal’s 1-10 season, Tedford was hired as head coach. He made an immediate impact, as the Bears went 7-5 behind a resurgent Kyle Boller at quarterback. The following season was highlighted by Cal’s 34-31 triple overtime win over No. 1 USC.

“Coach Tedford deserves credit for the extraordinary effort he undertook to turn this program around,” Barbour said.

In his tenure, Tedford has produced 40 NFL draft picks, including eight in the first round.

Behind future NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and 2,000-yard rusher J.J. Arrington at tailback, the 2004 Bears finished the regular season 10-1 and ranked No. 4. The squad appeared Rose Bowl bound but were shut out after Texas head coach Mack Brown lobbied for his Longhorns to receive the berth.

With an explosive offense in 2006, fueled by running back Marshawn Lynch and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Bears won a share of the Pac-12 title but were regulated to the Holiday Bowl due to their loss to USC. The next year, Cal reached ranked No. 2 in the nation until a mental lapse by freshman quarterback Kevin Riley led to a loss to unranked Oregon State on Oct 13, 2007. Since then, the Bears are 34-37.

After suffering its first losing season of the Tedford era in 2010, Cal rebounded to go 7-6 with another Holiday Bowl berth last year. Despite returning starters at key skill positions, the Bears were unable to continue that improvement this season.

Coupled with a floundering season, Cal received the lowest graduate success rate in the Pac-12. Only 47 percent of players who entered Cal between 2002 and 2005 graduated within six years, according to NCAA rankings.

“Cal football is integral to our department and our university, and its influence can be felt well beyond the walls of Memorial Stadium,” Barbour said. “It is imperative that Cal football be recognized as a leader in competitive success, academic achievement and community engagement.”

Tedford played quarterback at Fresno State from 1981-82. He returned a decade later to serve as quarterbacks coach and eventually offensive coordinator before taking the same position at Oregon in 1998.

He leaves Cal with a career record of 82-57. He went 7-4 in the Big Game.

“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.

Barbour said her national search for a new head coach will begin immediately. It will be aided by DHR International.

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