Jeff Tedford will not be the next head football coach at the University of Michigan. This news should make you quite relieved.
Some of you, however, might be a little disappointed (a crazy few, I hope). Look, I know the 2007 football season might not have gone as planned, We’re all a little angry, wondering what the heck went wrong. Something clearly got away from Tedford this year; it was apparent during the last couple games that some of the team had quit on him, and a coach simply can’t let that happen. But I’ve heard some crazy things out there. Some people have decided that simply calling for Bob Gregory’s job wasn’t enough. Some have decided to withdraw financial support from the program. Some have even openly questioned whether Tedford has reached his ceiling as a coach, and perhaps he isn’t the man to fulfill our Rose Bowl dreams.
Bollocks. Absolute bollocks.
I am in no way absolving Tedford of the mistakes that he’s made this year. C’mon, though! The guy’s earned himself some leeway! Anyways, I thought some perspective would be appropriate at this juncture.
Given the (decidedly non-storied) history of Cal Football (at least over the last half-century, the only Cal Football those of us younger than Joe Paterno know), the standard source of perspective is to reach into the past. And we don’t have to go far back. Cal has been somewhere between mediocre and awful for most of my life (early ’90s excepted), bottoming out during the 1-10 season of 2001. When Tedford brought us winning football in 2002, 7-5 was a miracle. When Cal got to a bowl game in 2003, no one cared that the game didn’t have a proper name, merely a title sponsor that was an internet company no one had ever heard of. The standard argument here is that, given what came before, we should thank our lucky stars for everything Tedford has given us, even if this year, all he’s given us is a bid to a crappy bowl game in a city most of us have no desire to visit.
However, I think the standard argument is selling Cal short. Given our location, resources, and international reputation, there’s no reason Cal shouldn’t excel in whatever endeavors it participates in, football included. Yes, football programs take time to build, but if your eventual goal isn’t to be the best, why are you even trying?
No, the perspective I want to talk about comes from distance, specifically distance from the program. As people who follow Cal intently, it’s often difficult to step back and look at the big picture, especially when the team is losing six of its last seven games. That’s why I went looking for outsider opinions on Tedford and Cal, opinions from people whose emotional well-being wasn’t devastated by the Bears’ sudden fall from grace.
First off, I found this column by Blaine Newnham in the Seattle Times. The main thrust of the article is to praise Washington for not having a quick hook with Tyrone Willingham; however, the lead-in slams Cal fans who want to give Tedford the hook:
It’s ridiculous to think Cal fans want to replace Tedford, who revitalized a football program, if not an entire university. His team didn’t reach expectations this year, but whose fault are the expectations? Tedford’s, of course.
Schools like Oregon and Cal, who for years dreamed of going to a bowl game, any bowl game, suddenly after a few good seasons think they ought to annually contend for a national title. Or, at least, win eight or nine games every year.
If not, fire the coach.
That thinking — and Washington fans certainly had it — is arrogant.
Arrogant? USC, sure. Stanford, in academic circles, definitely. But arrogance at Cal? Ouch.
Newnham also makes a very good point regarding Cal’s situation:
"But who would we get that is better?" countered a voice of sanity.
No one, that’s who. There’s no one out there who’s better than Tedford who would even consider taking this job. No one. And promoting one of our coordinators certainly isn’t the answer. Both Jim Michalczik and Bob Gregory interviewed for the recently vacant Washington State head coaching job, but despite ties to the program, neither was hired. Honestly, if Washington State isn’t interested, neither am I.
Of course, Washington State wasn’t the job opening some Cal fans were worrying about. That job would be Michigan, which bungled its courting of Les Miles, flailed around for a month, and finally pulled a rabbit out of its hat in West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez. Michigan’s the sort of job opening that makes any school with a hot young coach squirm; it has tradition and resources that would make just about any college coach jealous, Carroll, Stoops and Meyer excepted. You had to assume that the longer Michigan remained coach-less, the more coaches turned them down, the greater the odds they would throw a boat-load of money in Tedford’s direction. Indeed, a report did surface that Tedford was a ’serious candidate’ at Michigan, although considering the report came only from a Los Angeles newspaper, its veracity had to be brought into question.
You may remember that, earlier this season, we linked to an article by a Michigan blogger (Brian Cook of MGoBlog) that praised Tedford’s efforts at Cal and indicated that he might be a prime candidate to replace Lloyd Carr at Michigan. Well, a couple weeks ago I went back to this obvious Tedford fan and asked him "1) given this season’s collapse, has your opinion of Tedford changed? and 2) would you still be happy with Tedford as the next head coach at Michigan?" Here’s what he had to say:
I’m still very much in favor of Tedford and would be happy to have him as Michigan’s coach. As Cal’s year progressed it became clear that Longshore just wasn’t up to snuff with Cal QBs past, and while that’s a strike against him he’s got enough of a pedigree that it looks like the exception rather than the rule. This was a crappy year for Cal, and the collapse from potential national title contender to 6-6 is steep… he’s still probably one of the top coaches in the country [emphasis mine].
I also asked him if he thought Tedford might be more inclined to jump to a better job now, postulating that if he thought he’d done all he could do at Cal, he might see his team’s performance level off, causing better job offers to stop coming in.
As for the departure theory, yes, I think now would be the time if there was a job he wanted opening up, but by this point aren’t moves to Nebraska or A&M or wherever lateral moves? Michigan is the only job out there that seems a clear step up for Tedford and UCLA might be interesting if he wants to stay on the West Coast; other than that… what’s the point?
UCLA, huh? Now, before I set off any internet rumor wildfires, I want to note that I’ve heard *nothing* about a Tedford-to-UCLA development. Still, I thought that our younger siblings to the South might be able to provide a healthy dose of perspective on Tedford, given that they see him every year. To that end, I asked Nestor of Bruins Nation what he thought of Tedford and UCLA’s current opening for a football coach:
I can’t believe there are folks in Berkeley who are questioning Tedford. Jeff Tedford in my book is one of top-10 coaches in college football. Heck he may be in the top-5. If I were the UCLA athletic director, he would have been in my top-5 choice and would do whatever it took to get him down to Westwood. No doubt Tedford had a terrible season this year. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact what he has been able to build in Cal, and make that program truly relevant for the first time in decades.
Tedford would not only be good enough for UCLA. He’d be good enough for any elite program in America. Cal is lucky to have him. And I wish you luck in holding on to him.
Nestor is effusive in his praise for Tedford, although after wandering in the desert with Dorrell for five years, Tedford would certainly seem like manna from heaven for UCLA football fans.
Again, I’m not trying to start rumors, but I thought I’d be thorough on this topic. Looking at the terms of Tedford’s contract, paragraph 20 states in part:
Furthermore, for the period of this Employment Contract, as set forth in this Contract Addendum, Coach agrees not to be employed by any PAC-10 school.
Sounds good, right? Except…
The University agrees to waive the provisions of this PAC-10 restriction until such time as the Cal Football team fully occupies the Simpson High Performance Center.
Damn! There’s always a catch. Let’s get that gym built, people!
Overall, my point is this: Tedford’s been a fantastic hire for this University. Yes, we’re currently experiencing a rough patch, but JT has earned our respect and our trust in his football knowledge. Trust, not blind faith. I firmly believe he’ll get this thing turned around (he’s got a great track record), and anyone panicking now seriously needs to take a chill pill and a dose of perspective.
GO BEARS!!! BEAT THE ZOOMIES!!!