Jon Wilner, the respected writer from the San Jose Mercury-News, recently detailed the situation facing Cal head coach Jeff Tedford and the future of Cal athletics. In his 12th year as Cal’s head coach, Tedford is 82-55, but a 21-13 loss to Washington on Friday dropped the Golden Bears to 3-7 this season, clinching an early hibernation for the Bears for the second time in three years.
If a decision is indeed made to make a coaching change, Wilner thinks it would start with athletics director Sandy Barbour. Any change would likely start with her and run through UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. It is unclear exactly how the dynamics of their relationship works and how a final call would be made, but any movement likely begins and ends with those two.
The economics of the situation are complicated like seemingly everything else in that state, Cal athletics is facing budget issues. To make a coaching change, unless Tedford was willing to accept a negotiated buyout, Cal would owe Tedford $6.9 million – the full salary of the remaining three years on his contract. That’s just the start, considering the cost to run a search, hire a new coaching staff while also turning over the existing staff.
There is also another dollar figure to consider – $321 million. That’s the price Cal paid to renovate Memorial Stadium. To finance the renovation, Cal is asking for 50-year seat license fees. Cal must put fans in seats to make its economics work and, if you watched the Golden Bears’ game with Washington on Friday night, you saw that this will be a big hill to climb if things don’t improve on the field. Any cost associated with changing the coaching staff must be weighed against the cost of tickets gone unsold.
As Wilner points out, it is possible that Barbour’s voice in the process may be minimized due to the contract she approved for Tedford. Wilner wrote a detailed breakdown of Cal’s economic conundrum in October. She also could be replacing the person that she referred to in late August as “an icon”. Add all three factors together and it’s not out of the question that Chancellor Birgeneau takes the decision-making process in another direction.
The Tedford era began very strongly in Berkeley. He earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors in his debut season of 2002 and again in 2004. Tedford led the Golden Bears to 10-win season in 2004, when they famously pushed eventual national champion USC to the brink of an upset, and in 2006, when they shared the Pac-10 title and won the Holiday Bowl. Tedford’s tenure peaked in October of the 2007 season, when a 5-0 start rocketed Cal to the No. 2 ranking in both major polls. However, the Bears went 2-6 to finish that season and are 34-35 since earning the No. 2 ranking.
Another factor not weighing in Tedford’s favor is Cal’s performance in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate. According to the figures Wilner provided, Cal’s 2002-05 entering classes finished with a 48 percent success rate, the lowest figure in the Pac-12.