Fire Cal Football Coach Jeff Tedford?

So, the Football team of the California Golden Bears lost yesterday to that university of abbreviations that must include its city. What a bummer. The Bears played uninspired and without a sense of purpose. The only great play came from the special teams, especially the punter, Brian Anger. Otherwise, the play from the Bears on either side of the ball moved to a new all-time low. Shades of Tom Holmoe…

It was thought by many-including me- that the Cal Defense would keep UCLA from scoring. Of the few bright spots in team play, the Defense, which includes freshmen playing at both corners in some games, was always competitive. Not so yesterday: the QB, Kevin Prince, ran with impunity. He got around the corner of the line several times and then headed north without much pursuit. What a bummer. It’s worth adding that UCLA came into the game without 6 players who were suspended for fighting: 4 of whom were wide receivers. So, it should not have come as a surprise that UCLA would keep the ball on the ground.

As was observed by the TV commentators, the Cal Offense was simply pathetic: and that was even more of a surprise, in that the UCLA Defense is already well-known for being blown-out by several teams. There’s not a lot more that can be said.

So, the ongoing question raised by alumni like myself: How much longer will the Head Coach, Jeff Tedford, remain with the team? The lack of preparation by the team is obvious enough. Alumni are increasingly alienated by the play of the team; it’s not as though Cal suffers from a lack of athletes who also can play the game. So, what is up with the ongoing, downward spiral of Cal Football? I need to describe two other factors delaying the inevitable pink slip, and offer a plausible explanation for the excruciating slow decline of Cal Football.

First, Tedford has a contract until 2015 or something like that. That contract includes a huge buy-out clause, and goes into the millions of dollars (Welcome to the world of College Football). At a university with huge deficits and an “every-man/woman-for-themselves” approach to funding, to fire an at-will employee and have to pay them a few years of compensation to leave, no matter how much that money is, will be resisted in the strongest possible way, even though it is well-known that the Head Coach’s salary is paid for by huge gifts made by alumni.

Second, because Cal has a succession of winning seasons under Tedford, last season being the lone exception (a harbinger?), fund raising for improvements to Memorial Stadium and the construction of a new training facility for athletes- not just football- has gone really well. Winning does help raise monies. The facility is beautiful, and the report of those athletes who have got to use it so far, is that it is a wonderful facility for working out, studying, receive tutoring, and having a location that serves them as student-athletes. Furthermore, plenty of the athletes on the Football team were recruited to Cal because of the promise of the training center, tree-sitters notwithstanding. Recruiting players to Cal has become much easier because the facility is simply heads-and-shoulders above any other facility, especially in the Pac-12.

If you believe even half of what I’ve described above, and I’ll let you pick your half, the performance on the field does not aspire to either the compensation of the Head Coach or the quality of the athletes on the field. Put another way: if Cal were leaving it out on the field every Saturday, and were on the wrong-side of some calls by the referees or had some uncontrollable circumstances on how balls were fumbled, tipped, or the weather was the dominating factor throughout a game: and they still had the same record, you could make a case for a team being “snake-bit.” Cal just plays without purpose or intensity.

So, how do I attribute the decline of the Cal Football? It’s worth noting that when Tedford came in after Tom Holmoe, the Bears improved to 7-5 in 2002: first winning season in 10 years. But, to a person, there was a new sense of purpose on the team that season, and you heard athletes saying they wished they had an extra season to play for Tedford.

Then came the season that ancient Old Blues believed would allow them to meet St Peter at the pearly gates: in 2004, the Bears had a 10-1 record, and it appeared that Cal would finally return to the Rose Bowl.

It was a crushing piece of news that that glad-handing and lobbying of the Texas Head Coach, Mack Brown, was successful among the media and coaches in the nation, and resulted in UT (and Vince Young) going to the Rose Bowl. Aaron Rodgers didn’t mince words about how stupid that act was of Brown, and admitted Texas really didn’t have the personnel to play even the Bears; apparently, the Longhorns had enough to win their first Rose Bowl against Michigan.

Of course, Cal got smacked by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, and that was sign that Tedford did not have the persuasive ability or capacity to re-motivate a justifiably disappointed Cal Football team to get up for a lesser bowl and a lesser team. Cal got steam-rollered, by Tech, 45-31. The game was never as close as the score indicates.

Now, Cal continued to have winning seasons, but there were always losses from 2005 onward that everyone everywhere thought to themselves, “That was strange…Cal lost to (fill in the blank)?” At first, the losses were thought to be idiosyncratic. Now, there’s a pattern of unprepared players, lacking for purpose or motivation. Indeed, while no one wants to lose, none of the Cal players or the coaching staff ever gave evidence in the media that they were bothered by losses or the lack-luster performances coming with those games.

Now, Cal has had a few bright spots along the way. Tedford has a winning record in the Big Game (7-2); Cal has won several bowl games under Tedford (5-2), and there’s the upset of USC (ranked #3) in 2003 in triple-overtime. In most universities, if you’ve had a bottom-feeder for several decades and the kind of athletes that contribute toward that kind of record, you’d think a coach like Tedford fell from heaven. Why fire him?

At some point along the way, all of the big business notwithstanding, you’ve got ask yourself: are the players listening to and trusting their coach? That, at the end of the day, is the question that the Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour needs to ask and get answers from the student-athletes. Not the alumni, not the Chancellor, not the students, or other interested parties. Certainly: don’t ask the coaches. Ask the students: are you listening? Do you trust the man to prepare you to win? Athletes know this question: in their bones. When they know a coach challenges them, and invites them to step up against a better opponent, and has prepared them to win, calling them to play to win summons heart, mind, soul: and the body responds from snap to whistle.

In my judgment: the players would tell the Cal AD: No: we’re not listening. Cutting that buy-out check would be hard, but would cost more to ignore the student-athletes who come to Cal, not only for the best undergraduate degree on the planet, but also to develop a winning tradition that parallels the excellence in academics in Berkeley.

After that: the Cal AD would have to get the checkbook ready for Urban Meyer…he’s a natural for Berkeley. I’m serious.

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Cal vs. USC: No upset, this time, and, a fond recollection of better days

Tomorrow night, Cal hosts the Trojans at ATT Park; if you get ESPN, then tune in.

If you read here last week, I hypothesized guessed badly that Cal would upset the 9th-ranked Oregon Ducks. And, if you followed the first-half, you might have been tempted to say to yourself, “Wow…maybe Mike was onto something.” Then halftime finished, and so did the Bears’ opportunity for an upset.

The guys who get paid the big bucks in Vegas have USC winning by 3 points. Maybe they forgot about Georgio Tavecchio, the guy who has found his confidence again, and is kicking the ball over the state line. If USC keeps Cal from crossing the fifty, maybe they’ll win. Maybe Tedford would line Georgio from his own 45 just to see what would happen.

I have Cal by 7 in a close one.

Of course, last time I recall Cal winning big, they really took it to the Trojans, and the LA Times is hilarious.

Upset in Tonight’s Cal-Oregon Game?

I’m giving myself a brain-break from reading, and thought I’d weigh in on tonight’s Cal-Oregon game. Of course, if you get cable, swing over to ESPN, and enjoy it.

Right now, all of the pundits and Vegas have Oregon in a romp over the Bears. And, those guys and gals get paid big bucks to be right on these matters, and alumni like myself don’t really matter unless I’m among those paying the big bucks to the above…which I’m not…however, I am going to take the contrarian position on tonight’s game, and if for no other reason, you’ll either get to rub this one in my face, or you’ll say to yourself: I know at least one guy who predicted this upset.

So far, Cal is 3-1, and really, they haven’t played any team of real strength…or at least that was the thinking until Washington steam-rollered Utah last Saturday: and the Utes gave USC a game before that…well, you know how this kind of thinking goes: “so, Cal is better than everyone expects…” Maybe.

What I think we do come against here regards the preparation of Cal, the history of last year’s game in Berkeley, and what the Ducks think is coming…

This week, for the first time in a very long time: Cal practices were closed to the media and visitors. Yikes. Either there are injuries that no one wants to have disclosed, or the Bears are preparing for both sides of the ball in ways that they do not want disclosed. More on that in a moment. Normally, even with Big Game preparation, Coach Tedford has practices open the first day or two of the week. Nothing to see or hear this time around with Oregon.

In case you missed it, last year’s game with Oregon was the one game you should not have missed. Even if you don’t like football: this game was exciting. David (Cal) against Goliath (Oregon): except the Philistines ran out the clock at the end of the game to make sure shepherd boy didn’t pick up another rock: final score, Oregon wins, 15-13. Customarily, Oregon puts about 50 points on the scoreboard before the end of the first half in all of their other games. In short: Cal did two unexpected things: 1) they executed in ways that simply stymied the hurry-up, no-huddle offense of Oregon, and 2) they missed a field goal that would have put them into the lead in the 2nd half: it was a chip shot. Cal tackled, and put down the Ducks in ways that, well, you could hear the excitement in the voices of the broadcasters, as in, “Wow! We got us a game, and Cal might upset Oregon!” Which, unfortunately, did not happen. Even though they won, even if you read the interviews of Oregon coaches and players, they sound and read like they lost the game.

Which brings me to what is going on inside the heads of Oregon. One of the consistent remarks from post-game a year ago to yesterday was, “Cal executed better than we did.” Now, you can take those remarks as subtle bulletin board material to rah-rah your team, or…you can take that as: those Berkeley boys are a pain in our asses, and they won’t go away.

Seems like in the Pac-10, err, Pac-12, there is always another team- not your rival- that gives your school fits in football. Oregon State is like that for Cal; Washington State is like that for USC: and I wonder if now, Cal is like that for Oregon. And, here’s where the closed practices in Berkeley come into play.

Lots of people near and far have wondered, “Why don’t they let Zach Maynard run the ball more?” In the first four games, the guy really hasn’t: but everyone everywhere knows he has track speed and is tough as nails. No plays have been designed for him to run or for any kind of option stuff to be unveiled…so, I wonder if tonight, if from this summer until the present, Tedford has waited to unveil some new offense for Oregon, practiced it in private, and it includes Maynard running. If so, expect some Ducks to get gassed early and often. And, my best guess is that the Ducks know it is coming, and don’t have the personnel to stop Maynard.

To be sure, when you compare the maturity of the two teams that explains why the Ducks are a 24-point favorite over the Bears. But, given what I’ve suggested above, “that’s why they play the game.”

Bake Sales and Holidays on October 1: Free Speech Day and National Day in China

Today, October 1, hosts two holidays of sorts: in the USA, Free Speech Day, and in China, National Day. Of course, you knew that…

Meanwhile, now that the dust has- for the moment- settled up in Berkeley, it’s time to weigh in on last Tuesday’s remarkable rising-up over the sale of baked goods in Sproul Plaza, located at the University of California. In case you missed it, here’s the back-story:

State Senator Ed Hernandez (D) of West Covina introduced SB185, and it passed in the Senate and the Assembly, and had arrived on the desk of Governor Moonbeam Jerry Brown.

SB185 aimed to restore the power of the admissions committees of the UC, the Calif. State Univ. System, and state community colleges, to use race, and “other relevant factors” (I’m serious: that is the wording of SB185…) in determining a decision to admit an applicant to their respective campus. This bill aimed to reverse the public decision at the ballot box called Proposition 209; that proposition was carried in 1996: in short, Prop. 209 prohibited any of the state institutions (especially named were the educational systems like the UC) from using race, gender, or any other social status from making any determinations on admissions.

Last week, the ASUC decided to go carpe diem on campus, and set-up a table inviting students passing by to call the Governor’s office phone number and encourage the Old Blue (yup: Brown is a Cal alumnus) to sign SB185 into law.

The Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) caught wind of the ASUC’s proposed outreach, and decided to host a counter-outreach: the Diversity Bake Sale. The pricing on the baked goods was scaled according to ethnicity and gender: If you were a white male, you paid the most for any item; if you were a woman or black, you paid the least. Other ethnic representations were scattered in between. Brief interpretive response: in the great voice of Tracy Morgan, “That’s racist.”

The points of the BCR were manifold: the ASUC should have invited some kind of dialogue or convened a forum for discussion about SB185 before applying student fees to host the table; SB185 proposes sweeping changes in UC admissions policies by fiat, without any legislative guidance for including race or other recommended social factors; indeed, SB 185 is inherently discriminatory. Even BCR agreed: the content of the Diversity Bake Sale was repugnant: just like SB185 and especially the move made by the ASUC to endorse its passage.

Now, as you might expect, and no doubt many of you already know: the reaction was swift to condemn the DBS: see my comment above using Tracy Morgan’s voice. A couple of actions  impressed me as unworthy of the Free Speech Movement, which was largely recognized having its historical epicenter in Sproul Plaza. Both centered on an attempt to silence the BCR.

First, the ASUC hosted an emergency session, in which legislation was enacted to create the threat of punishment for any student group that harasses other students by their speech. Oops. Even the Daily Cal recognized that legislation put itself in conflict with the ASUC Constitution. That kind of “ready-fire-aim” is the stuff that certain states with militaries use to stifle free speech…

Second, Chancellor Birgeneau authored and emailed a campus-wide memo that had the chilling effect of saying that while he wanted civility in all manner of speech, the kind of talk that would represented by an un-named student group would not be tolerated. Yikes. Fortunately, people of all stripes on campus began to see that action for what it was and responded promptly.

So, the DBS took place, as did several counter-protests. Lots of yelling, some debates between students, and lots of baked goods consumed. And another student group hosted a counter-protest of note: they gave away baked goods, inviting the recipients to avoid purchasing baked goods at the DBS. Turns out the not-so fine print of the DBS was: You can pay anything you want for any baked good. Talk about actions speaking louder than words…

I find myself in a bit of a strange social location on this event, benefiting as I have from a Berkeley education, and having participated in student protests over UC investments in apartheid-era South Africa: and I’m a multi-racial male. Hmmm…what to do, what to do…no, I’m not really undecided: I’m with the BCR on this one.

And, No, (add Tracy Morgan’s voice) that’s not racist.

As I mentioned above, the “ready-fire-aim” approach concurs with the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world: no real thoughtful discourse or reflection of what the complexities of the issues are that under contention. Indeed, I’d have to agree with the BCR on this one point and add another: the failure of SB185 to offer any kind of direction or instructions on how to implement the law leaves the UC incredibly vulnerable to the very accusations that the counter-protesters made of BCR: (insert Tracy Morgan here).

And here’s my additional criticism: there is no mention made of how the enactment and enforcement of this law will be paid for. Someone, somewhere, is going to see the passage of SB185 as a gold mine to be tapped: admission administrators need to be trained how to comply with the law, seminars (online or on-site or both) will be hosted, and there’s a heap o’money to be made to achieve: compliance. And, everyone everywhere knows there’s no money coming from Sacramento for anything at all. UC admissions might as well thumb their noses at SB185, because there is no money to spank them if they ignore fulfillment of the law. Welcome to realpolitik.

But, it’s the chilling attempts by the ASUC and the Chancellor that really distracted me this week. They ineffectively and tacitly collaborated to silence students whose views they disagreed with. To be sure: the BCR used a repugnant form of satire to express their disagreement with the politics of the day. But, repugnancy of this kind is not sufficient to silence those students.

The BCR made no threats to anyone, let alone their fellow students. Indeed, they articulated what neither the ASUC or the Chancellor vocalized but ostensibly believe: that Berkeley benefits from an ethnically diverse student body, faculty, and administration. Such diversity represents and serves the State of California. Read that editorial again by the BCR president. That kind of articulation, while muffled by the rhetorical strength of the DBS, has historically contributed to the intellectual vigor of Berkeley.

Does the State of California need its educational institutions like Berkeley to include race and “other relevant factors” (arrgghh) for admitting students? Emphatically: Yes.

But, don’t miss the forest for the trees here: All of Senator Hernandez’ noble statements notwithstanding, this kind of legislation deserves nuance and some careful determination for how it will be paid for. Indeed, if this matter is as urgent as Sen. Hernandez, Chancellor Birgereau (oops: he’s not supposed to tip his hand here…), and the ASUC believe it is: then, let’s get the primary state-supported academic research institute of the State of California working on how to pay for this law to be sensibly and justly enacted.

And, let me add: the kind of legislation that ASUC enacted now puts Christian student groups into an incredibly vulnerable position. All it will take is one accusation over (insert issue here), and that’s it: no funding, no official status on campus, no meetings, and officially endorsed shunning of the students. No voice.

Oh, and by the way: Happy National Day in China…

Postscript: FTW: I discovered this NMA Video about the Diversity Bake Sale: NMA has a great sense of humor… 🙂

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cal Baseball Advances to College World Series

Tonight, Cal defeated Dallas Baptist, 6-2, to win the best of three in the Super Regional in Santa Clara.

The win of the Super Regional event now leads Cal to playing the Monday winner of the series between UC Irvine and the #1 Univ. of Virginia in the College World Series in Omaha.

This feel-good story about Cal Baseball will be told and re-told for years to come. On September 28, 2010, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour hosted a press conference to announce that 5 different sports would be either dropped or demoted to club level: and baseball would be one of those getting dropped.

Cal Baseball began in 1892. Cal won the first NCAA Baseball Championship (I need to confirm the year.). Dozens of Cal Alumni have played or retired from the MLB; perhaps the best-known is Jeff Kemp, formerly of the Houston Astros.

When the announcement was made, Cal alumni near and far were furious, motivated, and in a generous spirit. In six months, $9 million was raised, and the Chancellor announced the reinstatement of the program.  Meanwhile, the student-athletes began for their last season as Cal baseball players even while searching for new universities to attend & play for, even within the Pac-10!

Congratulations to the Cal Baseball team of 2011! The season is not over yet! Go Bears!

Video: California over Baylor in Bottom of the 9th

I’m not a baseball fan anymore: but, anything having to do with my alma mater, the University of California: I’m all in.

I attended the game against Alcorn St the day before, which was the first of four consecutive wins that got them to this game against the Baylor Bears. The Golden Bears had to win against the Rice Owls for the second game: That would have made my season right there if they hadn’t advanced again: Rice had a tough game against Baylor before that, and followed it with another tough, lightening-delayed game against Cal.

Brief version of the backstory: The Chancellor and the Athletic Director pulled the plug on Cal Baseball earlier this year: not enough dinero to keep the team. This would be the last season of Cal Baseball. Old Blues were furious. Former Cal Baseball players now in the MLB, including Jeff Kemp, plus Cal Alumni raised $9 million in a few months of aggressive FD. “Sorry. You can play again,” was the condensed version of the Chancellor and the AD’s response.

That the team even made it this far is simply the kind of stuff movies are made out of.

Here’s the end of the deciding game of the Regional: the announcer, Danny Freisinger of KALX, is a senior at Cal, and he’s on a cell phone because the weather (presumably) from the weekend fried the audio feed back to Berkeley. It’s only 49 seconds, but it will remind you of Joe Starkey calling The Play…