Cal football fans have incredibly short memories. In the wake of the disappointing loss to Southern Cal, a flood of abusive e-mails and phone calls have been directed at coach Jeff Tedford. Don’t these people even remember the Tom Holmoe years?
Something like this happened 15 years ago. Bruce Snyder guided the Bears to a 10-win season and a triumph in the Citrus Bowl, Cal’s first win in a New Year’s bowl in 54 years. But what many Cal alums chose to remember was that Cal lost the Big Game, thanks to a flurry of personal fouls.
That alumni backlash made Snyder more sympathetic to leaving and, encouraged by athletic director Bob Bockrath, he took an offer from Arizona State. Cal had one winning season in the next 10 years.
That isn’t going to happen with Tedford. Athletic director Sandy Barbour has increased his pay significantly and pushed a stadium project that includes new facilities, though that project has been put on hold, hopefully just for a couple of weeks, on a vote by university regents.
Still, watching Tedford at his weekly meeting with the media, I could see that he was stunned by the reaction to the USC loss.
“I’m sure this is no different than what happens everywhere,” he said, “but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.”
Tedfordhas made some mistakes this year. The principal one was installing Mike Dunbar as offensive coordinator. The move seemed a smart one because Tedford wanted to install some elements of the spread offense, which Dunbar had run so successfully at Northwestern. The problem is Nate Longshore is not a quarterback who can run the spread offense. As the season went on, the Bears used less and less of the spread. Dunbar, who calls the plays, wasn’t effective with a regular offense.
Early, with all their offensive weapons, the Bears put together a string of games in which they scored 40-plus points. But they became predictable and conservative, and the good defensive teams, such as Arizona and USC, were able to virtually shut them down.
The Arizona loss was a killer because, if they won that game and lost to USC, the Bears would probably still be going to the Rose Bowl. The key play in that game was Longshore’s fourth-quarter interception, which was returned for the winning touchdown. Longshore made a terrible throw, but the play was also poorly designed, throwing an outlet pass to the fullback on the sideline.
Though Tedford praises Dunbar, I think he’ll be gone next year and Tedford will go back to calling the plays. Then, we’ll see the creative offense he installed once again.
But mistakes or not, Tedford is still the best coach Cal has had since the glory days of Pappy Waldorf.
I’ve been watching Cal football for 51 seasons now, since coming to the school in the fall of 1956. Of those 51 seasons, only 18 of them have been winning and Tedford’s teams have five of them. There have been only eight seasons of eight or more wins and four have come from Tedford’s teams. He has been a great coach for the Bears and that’s what we should remember, not a loss to a USC team that may be in the national championship game again.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writeson www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.