My life as a Berkeley Football Fan…Thanks for signing the extension Coach Tedford

January 11, 2009


I think that the picture gotten here on a CAL blog (go visit when they are up and running, there was a great Oregon game breakdown) sums up the season. Cal is a sleeping Bear, ready to expose the fangs and do serious damage on the Pac-10. We watch A LOT of football being a part of the Too Old crew. One, because as a former high school coach, college and high school player it is part of my DNA. Two, the other members of the crew are passionate about SPORTS, period. Third, we are degenerate gamblers, so we will bet on almost anything.

While we were watching the Bowl season, discussions came up on how I was rooting for CAL basketball last year to blow out Ben Braun and get some new blood up in Harmon Gym, Haas Pavillion. Someone brought up that maybe I should start thinking about calling for Tedford to get blown out and start over. That would be utterly ridiculous to do so. Tedford has given CAL some long needed credibility in the football program. We have not had that kind of buzz since the year of Mooch. The record speaks for itself.

I started thinking about my life as a CAL fan. It has been a long and turbulent road. They have always been the college in my backyard, growing up in Richmond. CAL football was the first game that I ever went to. So, it follows that I wanted to play there and the blue and gold ran through my veins. While I didn’t end up at CAL playing football, I ended up never extinguishing the passion for the school and the team. To have a love affair with CAL, at least during my lifetime is to have a long of disappointments with a few mountaintop high moments. The CALIFORIA GOLDEN BEAR FOOTBALL entry on Wikipedia hits the highlights and lowlights of being a CAL fan.

1960s to 80s: Campus turmoil and football mediocrity

The 1960s was a period of particular mediocrity, as Cal had only one winning season (1968), although in that year after beating Syracuse Cal was ranked in the top 15. The coach during this era was Ray Willsey. Craig Morton, future Super Bowl quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, was an All-American in 1964.

In 1972, Mike White was hired. After two losing seasons, he brought home three winning seasons over the next four. In 1975, behind an NCAA leading offense anchored by All Americans
Chuck Muncie, Joe Roth, Wesley Walker, Steve Rivera and Ted Albrecht, the Golden Bears were co-Champions of the Pacific 8 Conference, but UCLA went to the Rose Bowl based on their head-to-head victory. Steve Bartkowski (’75) was another noted player who started for the Atlanta Falcons at quarterback. However, White left in a storm of controversy over recruiting violations. Roger Theder succeeded him and led the Bears to three winning seasons, but each was less successful than its predecessor. In 1979, Cal played in the Garden State Bowl, losing to Temple 28-17 after a 6-5 regular season.

This is my introduction to CAL football. The legend of Craig Morton was the reason that I have worn a number that had seven in it, from my time playing QB, (#7) to my time playing TE (#87) to my time on the offensive and defensive line (#77 and 71) The football was not that great, but some real legendary football players rolled through CAL at this time, none bigger than Chuck Muncie and the glasses.

The 1980s saw a return to mediocrity, with Cal posting only one winning season in the entire decade. Joe Kapp was the most famous coach in this period. Kapp had been the quarterback of the 1959 Rose Bowl team, and later led the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl. Even so, he was not able to overcome the recruiting drag created by the off-field notoriety of the Berkeley campus. Of note, however, was the 1982 Big Game versus Stanford, which became famous for The Play. After Stanford had taken the lead on a field goal with four seconds left, the Golden Bears used five lateral passes on the ensuing kickoff return to score the winning touchdown and turn defeat into a 25-20 victory. The Play has been named by numerous media organizations as one of the best football, and even American sports, moments.[5]

This is the toughest time period for CAL fans. The team was absolutely dreadful. The return of the prodigal son, Joe Kapp, did nothing for the program. You would hope that the homecoming would have led to recruiting success, but the talent didn’t really come or come together during that time period. The Big Game was the most incredible plays that I have ever seen. I wish I was there in person, but I have the shirt that diagrammed the play and I wore that under my pads for several years.

[edit] 1990s: A brief return of football success

Bruce Snyder arrived at Berkeley in 1987, and gradually turned the program around. He was able to recruit a number of outstanding players, such as Russell White, away from football powers such as USC and UCLA. The reemergence of Cal football as a thriving program was signaled by the October 19, 1991 game against the future national co-champion Washington Huskies. Cal lost 24-17 at home in a game that came down to the Bears’ last possession deep in Husky territory and was probably the Huskies most difficult game that season. (The Oakland Fire erupted in the hills south of California Memorial Stadium the next day.) Cal football had some success in the early 1990s, earning three postseason bowl berths and winning all three. Cal beat Wyoming 17-15 in the Copper Bowl of 1990, Clemson 37-13 in the 1992 Citrus Bowl and Iowa 37-3 in the 1993 Alamo Bowl. Snyder resigned before 1992 bowl game to take a position at Pac-10 rival Arizona State. The Golden Bears attempted to steal some of the Huskies’ magic by hiring away assistant Keith Gilbertson, but he delivered only one winning season in the next four.

After the loss of momentum, Cal hired Green Bay Packers assistant Steve Mariucci for the 1996 season. He lead the Bears to a winning regular season (losing to Navy in the Aloha Bowl 42-38), but the San Francisco 49ers struck yet again (as with Waldorf) and hired away Mariucci as head coach for 1997, ending the promise of an early Cal revival. The rest the late 1990s saw little success, and the down period reached its nadir in 2001 when the Bears managed only one victory the entire season. The win came in the final game of the season in New Jersey against Rutgers which was re-scheduled due to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Much-maligned coach Tom Holmoe resigned in November of this season and was replaced with Jeff Tedford, previously the offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks. Worse yet, Cal lost seven straight games to archrival Stanford.

I really thought that the 90’s were going to put CAL in the discussion of the top of the PAC-10. Russell White was incredible as a college player and I was shocked that he never really had an NFL career. The hire of Snyder was a great move. I never really figured out the cause of the dissention that pushed him to move to ASU. The only thing that I can think of is the facilities in Tempe were better and could lead to better recruits. Gilbertson was a good hire, who couldn’t put it all together. Maybe he was the definition of great Offensive Coordinator, Bad Coach. The one Mooch year was good, but disappointing in that we had a good start that fell apart, especially with the loss to Navy in the Aloha Bowl, which cost me some coin. Holmoe was the worst coach that CAL had during my tenure as a CAL fan. The team was seemingly not prepared, and he never had a direction for the team.

[edit] The Tedford Era

California began a renaissance under Tedford, who dramatically turned around the long-suffering program. Under Tedford the Golden Bears have posted seven consecutive winning seasons, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the days of Pappy Waldorf.[6] After being ruled ineligible for a bowl game in 2002 due to academic infractions under the previous administration, Cal has also appeared in six straight bowl games.

The Jeff Tedford era began with a bang, as California defeated Baylor 70-22, and went on to finish 7-5, their first winning season since 1993. The 2002 team defeated three nationally ranked opponents on the road for the first time in school history including Cal’s first win over conference foe Washington in 26 years, and won the annual Big Game against archrival Stanford for the first time in eight years.

In 2003 the Golden Bears posted an 8-6 record, highlighted by a dramatic 34-31 triple-overtime victory over No. 3 ranked and eventual national co-champion USC. This victory revived a long moribund rivalry with the Trojans, even as the Trojans reemerged as a national power under Pete Carroll. In the Insight Bowl, the Bears edged Virginia Tech 52-49 on a last-second field goal.

2004 Big Game

In 2004, the Bears posted a 10-2 record under Tedford and quarterback
Aaron Rodgers, with their only regular season loss coming against the eventual national champion, USC. California finished the regular season ranked No. 4 according to polls, and appeared to have an excellent chance to receive an at-large BCS bowl berth, most likely in the Rose Bowl. Under normal circumstances, the Bears, as Pac-10 runner-up, would have had first crack at a Rose Bowl berth since conference champion USC was playing for the national championship.

However, in a controversial case, the Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown made impassioned pleas to media asking poll voters reconsider their final votes. 10-1 Cal was mysteriously rated as low as 7th by some coaches, and Texas received an increase in votes in the last Coaches Poll of the season despite Cal’s win in their final game, allowing the Longhorns to pass the Bears into the No. 4 spot in the BCS rankings and guaranteeing Texas the BCS berth. The Longhorns went on to beat Michigan 38-37 in the Rose Bowl, while Cal was upset by No. 21 Texas Tech 45-31 in the Holiday Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 9.

This is why I hate Mack Brown and the University of Texas…the loss in the Holiday Bowl is Tedford’s only loss and can be explained by disappointment. Also, the loss and non BCS game set back the CAL plans a few years as well. The revival would have happened a little sooner with a birth to this game.

The next year saw inconsistent quarterback play and an overall inexperienced roster. Nate Longshore, who was chosen to succeed Aaron Rodgers, who had left for the NFL, sustained a season-ending injury in the season’s first game against Sacramento State. He was succeeded by junior transfer Joe Ayoob, who started nine games and went 5-4. Third string quarterback Steve Levy replaced Ayoob as the starter for the Big Game, leading the Bears to victory. Cal finished 8-4 and earned a berth in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, beating BYU 35-28.

Big Game at California 2006. Cal fans rush the field.

In 2006, Cal went on to post a 10-3 (7-2 in Pac-10) record. Despite falling to the Tennessee Volunteers in their first game of the season in Knoxville, the team rebounded, winning eight straight games, including impressive victories over the 20th ranked Arizona State and the 11th ranked Oregon at home. Two losses followed with a November 11, upset 24-20 by Arizona and a 23-9 defeat by USC, which cost Cal its Rose Bowl bid. In the final game of the regular season on December 2, Cal defeated Stanford 26-17 in the 109th Big Game for the fifth straight time. Coupled with UCLA’s upset of reigning conference champion USC on the same day, the victory earned Cal its first share of the Pac-10 champsionship since 1975.[7] Cal accepted an invitation to the 2006 Holiday Bowl, its second appearance there in three years. Cal routed Texas A&M 45-10, the largest margin of victory for a bowl game in the 2006-2007 season, and finished with a No. 14 ranking, an improvement from the No. 20 spot that it started with at the beginning of the season.

Cal began the 2007 season ranked 12th in both the AP/USA Today Polls. In a nationally televised game on September 1, the Bears defeated Tennessee 45-31. The Bears rose in the polls following subsequent victories against Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, and Arizona. Cal’s defeat of then No. 11 Oregon in Eugene 31-24, combined with a series of losses from Oklahoma, Florida, and West Virginia, allowed Cal to break into the top five. Cal had a bye the following week, but as a result of Stanford’s surprise upset of then No. 2 USC on October 6, the Bears were ranked No. 2 in the country in the AP, Coaches, and Harris polls behind No. 1 LSU. This was the highest the team had been ranked since 1951.[8]

With the Kentucky upset of LSU on October 13, the Bears had a shot at being the number one team in the nation along with Ohio State, but an upset loss to unranked Oregon State that same night dashed any hopes of a top ranking. The loss marked the beginning of a reversal in the second half of the season which saw the Bears winning only one game out of the next six and dropping out of the Top 25 entirely. The Bears lost to Washington for the first time in five years and to Stanford on the 25th anniversary of The Play, which resulted in the Cardinal regaining The Stanford Axe for the first time in six years under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh. Cal accepted an invitation to the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force on December 31, where post a 42-36 victory to end the season 7-6. Before the season even ended, Tedford declared there would be open competition for all positions on the team in 2008 and reevaluate every aspect of Cal’s football program.[9][10] Tedford made several coaching changes, most notably relinquishing offensive coordinator duties and hiring Frank Cignetti to playcall and take over quarterback coaching duties.[11]

Cal’s 2008 campaign was marked with diminished expectations, as all of Cal’s offensive stars at their skill positions (DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan, Justin Forsett and Craig Stevens) graduated or declared for the NFL Draft. Thus the Bears started the season unranked for the first time since 2003.[12] Their 2008 season would confirm this ranking, as they would finish the season undefeated at home but would only win one game on the road. The Bears won their opening game at home against Michigan State 38-31 and eviscerated Washington State in Pullman 66-3, but fell to Maryland 35-27 in College Park. The Bears won two straight home games against Colorado State and Arizona State but fell in the desert to Arizona. Although the Bears still controlled their destiny in the Pac-10 after two more home wins against UCLA and Oregon, two close losses to Pac-10 champion contenders USC and Oregon State on the road put an end to those hopes. Cal reclaimed the Axe by beating Stanford 37-16 in the 111th Big Game and kept Washington’s season winless with a 48-7 victory. Cal finished the regular season 8-4 as Tedford claimed his seventh consecutive winning season for the Golden Bears and third unbeaten home record in five years. The Bears accepted an invitation to take on the Miami Hurricanes at the 2008 Emerald Bowl, which they won 24-17.

Tedford also has become a noted quarterback coach. After developing Joey Harrington at Oregon he produced two quarterbacks who went high in the NFL draft, Kyle Boller in the 2003 draft, and Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft. However, Tedford also was able to cobble together winning seasons in 2005, 2007 and 2008 without an outstanding quarterback.

Mike White
(1972–1977)
1972 Mike White 3-8-0 3-4-0 5th
1973 Mike White 4-7-0 2-5-0 T-5th
1974 Mike White 7-3-1 4-2-1 T-3rd
1975 Mike White 8-3-0 6-1-0 T-1st

15

14

1976 Mike White 5-6-0 3-4-0 T-4th
1977 Mike White 8-3-0* 4-3-0* 4th
Mike White: 35-30-1 21-19-1
Roger Theder
(1978–1981)
1978 Roger Theder 6-5-0 3-4-0 T-6th
1979 Roger Theder 7-5-0** 6-3-0** 5th L
Garden State
1980 Roger Theder 3-8-0 3-5-0 9th
1981 Roger Theder 2-9-0 2-6-0 8th
Roger Theder: 17-28-0 14-18-0
Joe Kapp
(1982–1986)
1982 Joe Kapp 7-4-0 4-4-0 6th
1983 Joe Kapp 5-5-1 3-4-1 8th
1984 Joe Kapp 2-9-0 1-8-0 10th
1985 Joe Kapp 4-7-0 2-7-0 10th
1986 Joe Kapp 2-9-0 2-7-0 9th
Joe Kapp: 20-34-1 12-30-1
Bruce Snyder
(1987–1991)
1987 Bruce Snyder 3-6-2 2-3-2 8th
1988 Bruce Snyder 5-5-1 1-5-1 10th
1989 Bruce Snyder 4-7-0 2-6-0 10th
1990 Bruce Snyder 7-4-1 4-3-1 4th W
Copper
1991 Bruce Snyder 10-2-0 6-2-0 T-2nd W
Citrus

7

8

Bruce Snyder: 29-24-4 15-19-4
Keith Gilbertson
(1992–1995)
1992 Keith Gilbertson 4-7-0 2-6-0 9th
1993 Keith Gilbertson 9-4-0 4-4-0 T-4th W
Alamo

24

25

1994 Keith Gilbertson 4-7-0 3-5-0 T-5th
1995 Keith Gilbertson 3-8-0 2-6-0 T-8th
Keith Gilbertson: 20-26-0 11-21-0
Steve Mariucci
(1996)
1996 Steve Mariucci 6-6 3-5 T-5th L
Aloha
Steve Mariucci: 6-6 3-5
Tom Holmoe
(1997–2001)
1997 Tom Holmoe 3-8 2-6 9th
1998 Tom Holmoe 5-6 3-5 7th
1999 Tom Holmoe 0-11*** 0-8*** T-6th
2000 Tom Holmoe 3-8 2-6 T-8th
2001 Tom Holmoe 1-10 0-8 10th
Tom Holmoe: 12-43 7-32
Jeff Tedford
(2002–present)
2002 Jeff Tedford 7-5 4-4 T-4th
2003 Jeff Tedford 8-6 5-3 T-3rd W
Insight
2004 Jeff Tedford 10-2 7-1 2nd L
Holiday

9

9

2005 Jeff Tedford 8-4 4-4 T-4th W
Las Vegas

25

25

2006 Jeff Tedford 10-3 7-2 T-1st W
Holiday

14

14

2007 Jeff Tedford 7-6 3-6 T-7th W
Armed Forces
2008 Jeff Tedford 9-4 6-3 4th W
Emerald
Jeff Tedford: 59-30 36-23
Total: 616-471-51
National Championship   Conference Title   Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll of the season.
°Rankings from final AP Poll of the season.
*Includes UCLA forfeit
**Includes Oregon forfeit
***Cal finished 4-7 (3-5 in conference) in 1999, but later forfeited the victories due to ineligible players

In my lifetime, I have only seen CAL ranked in the top 25 at the end of the year six times. Tedford is responsible for three of the six final top 25 rankings. Braun never did that. Finally, I can say confidently that the program is headed in the right direction.

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