Jeff Tedford has come full circle. A former Bulldogs quarterback, Tedford on Friday reached the final rung of the ladder at his alma mater, from player to assistant, assistant to coordinator and now coordinator to head coach. A 20-year gap separated those two final steps, and in between Tedford touched nearly every corner of the football universe. He was a Pac-12 coordinator and later a head coach.
Tedford spent a brief stint as an NFL offensive coordinator. He coached a year in the Canadian Football League. With nowhere else to go, he spent this season as a non-coaching consultant at Washington where, just six days ago, he sat as a visitor in the press box at a renovated California Memorial Stadium that his success as the Golden Bears' head coach made possible. Tedford played the first full season at Bulldog Stadium, and now he'll coach the first season at the renovated Bulldog Stadium in 2017.
Again, the circle is complete.
But the circle is now complete for Fresno State, too. His former boss at Washington is the proof. "When Coach Petersen first got to Boise, their gold standard was Fresno State," Tedford said Friday. "It's flipped since then, but I absolutely know what it takes."
There's a reason Fresno State introduced Tedford on Friday, with two games still to play in a 1-9 season. And as Fresno needed Tedford, Tedford needed Fresno. He said Friday he wasn't moving East. Fresno State was it for Tedford, just as Tedford was it for Fresno. "It's a privilege that we have one of the best coaching minds that wants to come here. Not for a year, not for two years, not as a stepping stone. It's my honor to bring back a Bulldog," said AD Jim Bartko.
"My family and I have always loved Fresno. I have a great deal of pride and passion for the university. This opportunity is a great fit for me because I do understand the tradition of Bulldog football," Tedford said. "I know where it's been, and I know where it should be. I really believe this is a special place without a doubt."
Tedford mentioned -- repeatedly -- his intention to target players from the Valley. His best player at California -- a guy named Aaron Rodgers -- came to Berkeley by way of a California junior college, and it's a safe bet Tedford will mine those again in Fresno.
Another point of emphasis: academics. Cal's APR was in the depths of the Pac-10 by his 2012 departure, and Tedford is determined to make academics his top priority with the Bulldogs. In fact, his first stop on campus upon arrival next week will be to meet with Fresno's academic staff and get a full picture on where his inherited team stands. After that, he'll move on to a questionnaire to get a baseline of understanding on his new players as people, then conduct 1-on-1 meetings once the season ends later this month. "Our mission will be to grow and develop young men to reach their full potential in all areas -- academically, athletically, socially and spiritually -- to compete at the highest level on the football field and to do so with high integrity," Tedford said.
Much of this was born, Tedford said, in 2013, his only year out of coaching since joining the profession in 1989. "I was able to sit back and reflect on what's so important about this. As a coach sometimes you get tunnel vision on success, success, success," Tedford admitted. "But the main thing is the relationship I've kept with my players over the years."
During this period, of course, Tedford will have to hire a staff. While reports have pegged Marcus Arroyo as his offensive coordinator, Tedford didn't tip his hand on which way he's leaning stylistically. "It's really important to surround yourself with great evaluators, guys who can connect with players, who are masters in their fields, who are positive," Tedford said.
Twenty years from his last stop and almost 40 years removed from his first arrival, Jeff Tedford is back where he started. He says it's those experiences -- and all those many stops in between -- that will bring Fresno State full circle again, too. "When I was here I knew how this was built," he said, "it was built with blue-collar players from the Valley."