BERKELEY, Calif. – Jeff Tedford, the man who revived California football and won more games than any other head coach in school history, will not return next season.
After two days of meetings with athletic director Sandy Barbour, Tedford was fired Tuesday, speaking with players at 10 a.m. in what one long-time staffer termed the most emotional meeting he could recall.
"This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, one that required a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of factors," Barbour said in statement. "Ultimately, I believed that we needed a change in direction to get our program back on the right track. Cal football is integral to our department and our university, and its influence can be felt well beyond the walls of Memorial Stadium. The program clearly serves as an important part of the connective tissue that binds our community together, and it is imperative that Cal football be recognized as a leader in competitive success, academic achievement and community engagement.
"For many years, under Jeff Tedford’s leadership, our program represented all that and more. Coach Tedford deserves credit for the extraordinary effort he undertook to turn this program around and bring us to the heights of a Pac-10 co-championship in 2006. He has served his University admirably, and I will forever be indebted for his commitment and expertise, as well as the positive impact he has made in so many young men's lives over the years."
Tedford went 82-57 in his 11 seasons leading the Golden Bears, besting Andy Smith’s prior mark of 74 wins during the 2011 campaign, with a 50-45 record in conference play.
His greatest success came early in his career, starting with a near-miraculous turnaround in his first season, as Cal went 7-5, 4-4 in the Pac-10, in 2002 after Tedford inherited a team that went 1-11 the year before, and turning quarterback Kyle Boller into a first-round draft pick.
The following season Cal shocked No. 3 USC in triple overtime, the only loss for the AP national champions, establishing Tedford as the main challenger to Pete Carroll’s emerging Trojan dynasty.
In 2004, Cal would again push USC to the limit, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers completing 23 straight passes, but failing to score from the nine-yard line with less than two minutes to play in an epic 23-17 loss.
Cal would finish the season at 10-1, but did not receive its first Rose Bowl berth in 46 seasons after Texas leapfrogged the Bears to finish fourth in the final BCS rankings and secure a spot in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. The disheartened Bears would fall to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, 45-31.
Two seasons later, Cal and USC would again face off with the conference title and Rose Bowl on the line, but Tedford’s team fell short, giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 23-9 loss in the Coliseum. The Bears would share the Pac-10 crown, their first since 1975, after the Trojans were upset by UCLA in the final week of the season.
But his final seasons were defined by diminishing returns because of instability on the coaching staff and an inability to get consistent play at the quarterback position. After climbing to No. 2 in the nation, with a chance to become the top team in the polls for the first time since 1951, but were upset by Oregon State, 31-28.
Following that game, Cal went 27-30, failing to make a bowl game in two of Tedford’s final three seasons, and bottoming out with a disastrous 3-9 record this past season, the first back in Memorial Stadium after a $321 million-dollar renovation that included seismic renovations to the venue, and the addition of new football offices and weight rooms.
Tedford was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year, in 2004 and 2006, and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award in 2002. He went 5-3 in bowl games, and 7-4 against rival Stanford in the Big Game.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.