Less than a year ago, I asked whether it was time to replace Cal’s football coach, Jeff Tedford. Now I wonder whether it’s time to replace both Tedford and the Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.
Perhaps Chancellor Robert Birgeneau ought to go too for calling the football program the “financial underpinning for the entire Cal Athletics Department” in Jan. 2009. Wrong.
If you recall, Cal last month was forced to cut its baseball problem and other sports teams, removing 163 athletes from varsity status. Cal’s athletic department expenses are $69 million for the current fiscal year, yet revenues are only $57 million, the S.F. Chronicle reported. The $12 million gap is bridged by student registration fees and the chancellor’s discretionary fund. The athletic department’s revenues come from ticket sales, broadcast rights and donor contributions.
Meanwhile, Cal’s football team is mediocre, at best, and Tedford remains the third-highest paid football coach in the Pac-10, earning $2.8 million. Though there have been challenges off the field — including a well-publicized court battle to block upgrading the athletic facilities — the team is not filling up enough seats in the stadium.
Barbour and Birgeneau had bet — wrongly — that Cal’s football team could help carry the rest of the athletic department with a nationally ranked team. But it hasn’t materialized.
“Cal has had top talent – Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, Jahvid Best,” I wrote last December. “But Coach Jeff Tedford seems more wrapped up in ‘Xs and Os’ than being a head coach. The play calling is inconsistent, the team is not fired up and his ballyhooed genius as a quarterback coach has not materialized.”
Some suggested it was heresy, noting that Tedford is Cal’s winningest coach. So what did Barbour and Birgeneau do? Extend Tedford’s contract through 2015.
“On behalf of our entire University community, I want to congratulate Coach Tedford on the outstanding job that he has done with our football team, achieving both on-field and academic success,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in extending the contract. “Under Coach Tedford, the football program now provides a reliable and robust financial underpinning for the entire Cal Athletics Department, helping to support 14 women’s and 13 men’s intercollegiate teams.”
Five of Tedford’s worst losses at Cal — 17 points or more — have come since September of last year. The latest: a 48-14 rout by USC this weekend. The 52-31 loss to UNR earlier this season was another.
Other alumni, besides me, are starting to ask questions.
As the latest newsletter of Cal’s Alumni group in Tahoe mentioned: “The Bears came out of hibernation to hear Chancellor Birgeneau speak at the Deck Party at the Hubbard’s home.
“It was a beautiful evening on the golf course, and the Chancellor did a great job of addressing many of the issues we all are concerned about, including why Jeff Tedford makes more than he does.”
Good question. Most of the alums in our county still support Tedford, but I suspect they’re rethinking their position. Or they should be.
You can expect to see a lot more commentary like this in coming months — not just on this blog.