Time to sack Cal’s football coach — and the athletic director?

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.

The details are here and here.

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.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

6 thoughts on “Time to sack Cal’s football coach — and the athletic director?”

  1. Jeff, I can hear the crescendo getting even louder if Stanford vs Cal looks like Cal vs USC.

    I know others who are Cal alumni who seem to have the same experience as Cub fans when it comes to Cal football.

    I empathize. I suppose if you were a Cal alumni and football fan and also a 49er fan, then you’d truly be suffering. Fortunately, and thank goodness, the Giants provide some relief.

  2. I have been enjoying the Giants, that’s for sure.
    This problem at Cal goes beyond the emotion of having your football team lose. It is a failed business strategy that has spread well beyond the football team. It has impacted other sports and the coffers of chancellor’s discretionary funds. In short, it’s a disaster.

    1. The cutting of the other intercollegiate teams, especially baseball, was a surprise. It’s obvious something is not right with Cal football. If it’s affecting the intercollegiate programs and the viability of the university, then I’d agree, the Athletic Director should go for business and sports reasons and Tedford should be removed for someone who can create a healthy football program.

      Enjoy the 49ers and Giants today. It will probably be “torture”.

  3. Hi George,
    I did pick Cal to beat Nevada, but I didn’t pick Cal to beat ‘SC (I was being sarcastic in my comment about that one). The UNR game set the “bar” for the season.
    -Jeff

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