Jeff Tedford a Victim of His Own Success at Cal

By James Gomez
Jeff Tedford Cal Bears
Jason O. Watson-US Presswire

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The second longest tenured coach in the Pac-12, Jeff Tedford, has been relieved of coaching duties for the California Golden Bears. Announced by Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour today, Tedford will no longer roam the Bears’ sidelines.

The move was of no surprise considering the lackluster finishes of late, and the current 2012 disaster that has befallen the program. In a statement released on the Bears official website, Barbour said the following:

“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, one that required a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of factors,” Barbour said. “Ultimately, I believed that we needed a change in direction to get our program back on the right track. Cal football is integral to our department and our university, and its influence can be felt well beyond the walls of Memorial Stadium. The program clearly serves as an important part of the connective tissue that binds our community together, and it is imperative that Cal football be recognized as a leader in competitive success, academic achievement and community engagement.

“For many years, under Jeff Tedford’s leadership, our program represented all that and more,” Barbour added. “Coach Tedford deserves credit for the extraordinary effort he undertook to turn this program around and bring us to the heights of a Pac-10 co-championship in 2006. He has 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.”

Tedford became a victim of his own success. In the 11 years he coached Cal, the Bears finished with a winning record in nine. To put that in prespective, before Tedford, it took the Bears 30 years to attain nine winning seasons.
Tedford also coached the Bears to five bowl victories during his tenure. Before Tedford, the Bears had exactly five bowl wins in their history. In other words, from 1916 to 2001, Cal had the same amount of bowl wins as Tedford provided from 2003 to 2008.

By divorcing themselves from Tedford, Cal has made the statement that winning bowl games is not enough. Being a winning program is not enough. This was all about getting over the proverbial hump. Something that Tedford was unable to accomplish. Unless you count turning Cal into a winning program and a perennial bowl participant.

Under Tedford, the Bears tasted consistent success for the first time in their history. Unless of course you count the late 1940s and early 1950s. Under Pappy Waldorf Cal went to three consecutive Rose Bowls each being a loss.

The latest Rose Bowl appearance for the Bears was in 1958, also a loss. One would have to go all the way back to 1937 for most recent Rose Bowl victory enjoyed by the Golden Bears.

Lack of success isn’t what did Tedford in. The catalyst for the coach’s demise was the standard he set and the bar he raised. So many times over the past decade, Cal was oh so close to a BCS bowl appearance or a Pac-12 championship.  It never came, and the Bears faithful ran out of patience waiting.

A coach being fired after resurrecting a program is not new to college football, and Tedford will not be the last victim.

Whomever the Cal administration hires to take over their football team will have the knowledge that the expectation is a Pac-12 championship with the promise of something more. It has been a long time since Cal has waded in those waters.

If Cal is to make to that far, it would take an effort unseen thus far in Berkeley. A national championship game or even a title would finish one heck of a journey.

Cal would have Tedford to thank for taking the first steps.

James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow James on Twitter as well.

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