Sandy Barbour’s only choice

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Sandy Barbour really only had one choice.

With her announcement on Tuesday morning that football coach Jeff Tedford would be relieved of his coaching duties, Cal’s athletic director did the only thing she could do.

There’s no doubt that Tedford has done incredible things for this university. In just two seasons, he took a team on life support and had that squad beat No. 3 USC in 2003. The next year, the Bears won 10 games and were snubbed of a Rose Bowl.

All of a sudden, football was relevant in Berkeley.

But football is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of business, and lately, things haven’t been so bright. Cal has won just 15 of its last 39 games. Since losing to Oregon State in 2007, the Bears have gone 21-38 against the rest of the Pac-12.

“(Tedford) deserves to occupy a place of honor in the Cal family,” said Athletics Director Sandy Barbour in a Tuesday press conference. “However, the current state of our program is not what our student-athletes, fans and campus community deserve.”

In the past four seasons, Cal has lost 16 games by 17 or more points. In Tedford’s first seven seasons, that only happened twice.

There’s no doubt that Tedford still brings plenty of positives to the job. He wants nothing more than for his team to succeed. His work ethic is top-notch, and he runs a clean program.

But the athletic department didn’t just spend half a billion dollars on a new stadium and training center to run a middle-of-the-road program. And unfortunately for Cal, a 3-9 record doesn’t even qualify as middle-of-the-road.

Worse than their record in recent years has been how the Bears have played on the field. Simply put, they’ve been hard to watch. Football at its core is supposed to be entertaining, yet watching Cal trying to defend a lead in the fourth quarter is about as far from entertaining as football can be.

Cal ranks as the second-worst team in the nation in penalty yards, surrendering 83 yards each game. Combining that with an offensive line that has given up 40 sacks — the third most in the nation — is going to result in some pretty unwatchable football.

This would all be okay if there were any signs that things were going to get better. But there simply aren’t. This current Cal coaching staff has shown absolutely no sign that 2013 will be any different.

In all likelihood, the players will still be playing undisciplined, disjointed and uninspired football.

“We all love coach Tedford, but we all know it’s a business,” freshman guard Jordan Rigsbee said Tuesday. “We just want to win and have the best opportunity to win.”

The Pac-12 has turned into a coach’s conference, and Cal has found itself lagging behind. Barbour came to that realization Monday night, and she knew it was time to make a change.

Above all things, she couldn’t risk continuing to see an empty ESP section in the stadium while trying to pay off the stadium.

Barbour is likely to face some backlash from donors who were still in Tedford’s corner. But that backlash would have been far worse had she kept him on for another year. People have simply grown tired of watching Cal squander away superior talent on a yearly basis.

But now the pressure shifts on to Barbour. If she makes a good choice and her replacement turns in a solid first season in 2013, all of that backlash will instantly disappear.

But if 2013 proves to be business as usual, her seat will become just as hot as Tedford’s was this year.

Cal is no longer a stepping stone for coaches trying to make it big in college football. With its prime location and state-of-the-art facilities, Berkeley is ready to go to the proverbial next level.

“This is a very attractive job,” Barbour said.

Now it’s time for Barbour vindicate her own words prove that the change she’s making is a change for the better.

Connor Byrne covers football. Contact him at [email protected]