The other guy is getting the attention. A huge article on Jim Harbaugh in Sports Illustrated. Why not? Stanford has lost only one game. Stanford is ranked No. 7 in the nation.
“I have a lot of respect for coach Harbaugh,” said Jeff Tedford.
And two wins in three tries over Harbaugh.
Fans get bored. Alumni get impatient. A few years ago, Tedford was the miracle worker, the man who took a Cal team that had been 1-11 and turned it around immediately to 7-5.
It was 2002, and Tedford was Coach of the Year.
Now, he’s the nearly man. Now, he’s the one who hasn’t found a way to get Cal to the Rose Bowl. Who last weekend couldn’t quite provide the magic to knock off No. 1 Oregon.
So this 112th Big Game, this meeting of history and rivalry between Stanford and Cal on Saturday at Berkeley, is particularly important for Tedford and the Golden Bears.
It’s their reason. It’s their season. It’s their retribution.
Tedford turned 49 two weeks ago. “I love Cal,” he says. And Cal loves him. Or does it?
He’s beaten Stanford seven of his eight seasons. (Before Tedford’s arrival, Stanford had won seven straight). He’s coached Cal to a bowl game the previous seven years.
Yet, the conversations too frequently are about what Tedford hasn’t accomplished rather than what he has, which is a great deal.
“I’m probably my harshest critic,” Tedford said a few days back. “I know everybody’s expectation level. Everybody wants to win a championship, and nobody wants it more than I do, and so you get disappointed at times. You keep plugging away.
“Yeah, you get worn down. It’s the ups and downs of football. The difference in feelings between a win and loss, it’s just unbelievable. You have to learn to deal with it the best you can and get over it and move on to the next game. It takes a toll on you emotionally, but that’s what the profession is.”
The profession is losing your running back, Jahvid Best, to the pros after his junior year. The profession is losing your quarterback, Kevin Riley, to an injury in the middle of the season and facing Stanford with Brock Mansion, who’s got arm but really doesn’t have a clue.
He will in time when his coach is Tedford, who helped develop Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller at Cal, Trent Dilfer and David Carr at Fresno State, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith at Oregon.
Tedford is the quintessential workaholic. He sleeps in his office early in a week. The World Series? Never watched a pitch, although he did get a score now and then.
“Coaching?” he asks rhetorically. “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I love the kids. They motivate me every single day. That’s who I feel the worst for when we’re not a success. You love how they work, and you want the best for them.”
He’s done very well by them. And by Cal.
“I’ve coached more than 100 games,” Tedford said. “A lot of experiences. You live and die with every one of them.”
With a 7-1 record against Stanford, it’s been much more living than dying.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.