Bearing the Pain: Why Jeff Tedford's Job Is Safe When It Really Shouldn't Be

Evan AczonSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2012

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Head coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears walks the sidelines during their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Jeff Tedford's job should not be safe. 

I could end it right there, and I'm sure that this article would get at least 40,000 people (around two-thirds of the capacity of Memorial Stadium) who agree with me. But let's explore that further. 

Jeff Tedford came in and rebuilt Cal football into a program that continually ranks among the top schools in attracting recruits and also producing NFL players. They went from 1-10 in 2001 to 7-5 in 2002, Tedford's first year.

His first play from scrimmage as the Cal head coach was a WR double pass that went 70 yards for the touchdown. His first game was a 70-22 blowout of the Baylor Bears. They won the Big Game for the first time in eight years.

Frankly, he impressed.

That continued throughout his tenure, as the Golden Bears pulled off some stunning victories and continued to produce high-quality players. Kyle Boller was drafted and played in the NFL.

Of course, everyone remembers that Aaron Rodgers led the Bears to a triple-overtime victory over USC in 2004—but nobody remembers that he didn't even start that game. (Reggie Robertson did, and left at halftime.)

That year also brought about the BCS controversy that led Texas to the Rose Bowl. Everyone also remembers the heartache of watching Aaron Rodgers leave and the misery of watching good receivers like Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson be overthrown, underthrown and generally just missed by quarterbacks like Joe Ayoob, Steve Levy and Nate Longshore.

Memorial Stadium also saw a veritable stable of running backs who went on to achieve at least moderate success in the NFL. Adimchinobi Echemandu (2003), JJ Arrington (2004), Marshawn Lynch (2005-06), Justin Forsett (2007), Jahvid Best (2008-09) and Shane Vereen (2009-10) all got drafted. And Isi Sofele is no slouch at tailback this year.

Unfortunately, that's not Tedford. That's RB coach Ron Gould.

Then there's Kevin Riley and the more recent source of our frustration for Bears' fans, Zach Maynard.

But again, I digress. I'm talking about Tedford. And why he should (but won't) be fired. 

Tedford, who is supposed to be a quarterback guru, has seen a bevy of blue chip recruits fall to the wayside after their enrollment at Cal. Riley was supposed to be good. So were his backups, Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney, who rarely saw the field.

In fact, the only great quarterback that Tedford had was Rodgers, and he already had two years of experience at Butte Community College before transferring to Cal.

Tedford, who signed an extension after the 2008 season that put him under contract until 2015, is being heralded as an example of the excess spending in college athletics—he is the highest-paid state employee in California ($1.5million/yr).

And even though he has won a lot, becoming the winningest coach in Cal history, for some Cal fans (like me!) the Emerald Bowl/Holiday Bowl/Insight Bowl/NON-ROSE BOWL victories...

Just. Don't. Matter. 

And that is one of the big reasons that the Cal Athletic Department's hands are tied. Although his salary is not nearly as much as some college coaches, California is in a budget crisis. And when people look at the list of state employees and see a college football coach at the top, it's not great for business.

Nonetheless, the cost of firing Tedford (probably at least $2M throughout the remainder of the deal) and hiring another high-profile coach for the school, which is a top-half program in one of the best conferences in the country, would be substantial.

And it cannot happen with all the cuts around campus. It's just not justifiable.

You might look at that and say, well, the Bruins down at UCLA fired Rick Neuheisel. But that's different. Partly because Neuheisel is a terrible person. Mostly because his deal was $1.25M per year, and he had a $250,000 buyout for only one year left on his contract.

And he was terrible.

Another reason is that the Golden Bears will finally be returning to Memorial Stadium—they have been working out in the new High Performance Center since fall.

That was all Tedford. Seriously.

They may have thrown away the 2011 season at AT&T, and there was that whole tree-sitters episode (that was NOT Berkeley students, just to remind you) that delayed everything. So there's no way that they're not going to let Tedford have at least ONE year in his crown jewel.

Tedford revitalized this football program and pretty much single-handedly brought in all the big money for the High Performance Center, which, from what I can see by cupping my hands around my face and fogging up the glass doors, is AMAZING. Memorial Stadium was falling apart, and has historically been known to have some of the worst locker rooms—home AND away—in college sports.

So that's great. Fantastic. 

Tedford has one more chance, I think. He's got Keenan Allen. He's got Zach Maynard (whatever that means). He's got Zach Kline waiting in the wings. And he's got a new stadium.

If the Bears don't crack the Top 25 in 2012...I'd say check back in, but if you're asking for Tedford's head now, you'll be left waiting for a while.