Editorial: ‘University of Cal' and Jeff Tedford: A Work in Progress

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At least this time when Jeff Tedford addressed the press, he called us Cal, instead of "the University of Cal," as he called his new employer in December upon being hired as its head football coach.

Tedford announced yesterday the new recruiting class he has managed to draw to Cal in his short time at the helm of the

Pac-10's worst team in 2001.

Tedford is an unlikely man to be entrusted the future of an ailing program. Choosing him is a gamble, but at least we have nothing to lose but time. Athletic Director Steve Gladstone is taking a chance on someone new.

Tedford is not a big name coach. He'll likely require a lower salary than most top coaches in the Pac-10. Hiring him was no coup. Instead, it was a pledge to forgo the quick-fix and start building a solid program.

The list of this year's recruits confirmed the essence of Tedford's approach: building from the ground up and looking at the long-term.

When Tedford went to Oregon as a quarterback coach, he was part of a similar process there. The players he worked with were not big names when he got them, but the quarterbacks he produced were beating Cal two or three years later and on the road to glory.

Here at Cal, he has begun the same process. He gutted the coaching staff, bringing in all new people and keeping only one coach. The recruiting class is not exceptional. It does not guarantee Cal a winning season next year. But it is solid, and oriented toward the future. Tedford himself said, "It's going to be a work in progress."

He grabbed three junior college recruits he plans to play next year, but the quarterback recruited this year won't be immediately rushed onto the field. He's planning ahead.

While looking at the long-term future of the program is a key to its success, if Tedford

doesn't turn things around in a few years, he'll be replaced, too. Such is the harsh job turnover of a program that hasn't won the league title since 1975, back when the conference was called the Pac-8. Tedford is the fifth coach at Cal in 10 years, part of a series of inexpensive coaches. But it's too soon to tell whether or not he will be the one to break the pattern of loss and set new foundations.

Cal cannot afford another 1-10 season. Cal needs to win. Next season is the 20-year anniversary of The Play. The Big Game has turned into the Big Loss. We need some new fodder for pride, and no program can quite replace football in that respect.

The university is banking not only on Tedford, but on the whole process of slowly climbing back to the top of the league.

With a $100 million retrofit of Memorial stadium under way, the university is literally investing in rebuilding football from the ground up. Maybe Tedford is exactly what Cal needs to once again make us proud.


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