Hoping to wash away the painful memories of the recently completed 1-10 disaster of a season, Cal introduced a new head football coach on Wednesday morning. University of Oregon offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Tedford will be the man to replace Tom Holmoe on the Cal sideline, agreeing to a reported five-year contract late Tuesday night.
Tedford comes with an impressive offensive resume, having orchestrated an explosive attack at Fresno State from 1992-98 before moving to Oregon and helping the Ducks reach national prominence.
The 40-year-old Tedford started his coaching career with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1989, and has helped develop outstanding college quarterbacks such as Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington.
Cal athletic director Steve Gladstone chose Tedford among three other final candidates: former Cal and Arizona State head coach Bruce Snyder, South Carolina defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, a Cal graduate.
“This hire represents the culmination of an extensive and thorough search, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result,” Gladstone said. “I have enormous confidence in Jeff.”
Tedford will remain in his position with the third-ranked Ducks through their Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl date with Colorado, but will also begin meeting with Cal players and coaches immediately, as well as coordinating recruiting efforts for his new school.
“I don’t sleep much,” Tedford said at Wednesday’s press conference at Memorial Stadium. “I spend a lot of late nights up working.”
Tedford, who has never been a head coach at any level, will try to avoid the pitfalls that Holmoe fell into in his own first head coaching job. Holmoe, who finished with the second-lowest winning percentage over more than one season in Cal history, often said he was overwhelmed by the demands of dealing with alumni and peripheral factors involved in running the program.
“I haven’t heard a lot of horror stories, but I realize there are problems in any job,” Tedford said. “But I’m sure all the problems are rectifiable.”
Perhaps the biggest off-field issue for the program is sub-par facilities, such as the antiquated weight room and rickety Memorial Stadium. The fund-raising for upgrades has been slow in developing, and Cal has perhaps the worst facilities in the Pac-10. Oregon, for example, spent $28 million on new athletic facilities in the last nine years, including a new indoor practice facility, and is currently in the midst of an $80 million expansion for Autzen Stadium.
“When you look at the arms race going on around the country, and especially in the Pac-10, it is critical to have the facilities that recruits want to see,” Tedford said. “(Recruits) are impressionable, and they’re impressed by those things. But it’s an ongoing process that, from what I understand by talking to the administration, will be in the works.”
Tedford said he has contacted several candidates about working on his staff, meaning most of the current staff will be let go. One exception could be running backs coach Ron Gould, whom Tedford singled out as a coach he would like to keep. But for the financially-strapped Cal athletic department, a fresh start will mean buying out the contracts of offensive coordinator Al Borges, hired just a year ago, and defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich, each of who make nearly $200,000 per year.
Two candidates mentioned for Borges’ job are Boise State offensive coordinator Chris Petersen and Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Both have coached with Tedford before and are possible candidates to replace him at Oregon.
Tedford intends to model his role after that of Mike Bellotti, head coach of Oregon, taking an overseer position and leaving game-planning and play-calling to his offensive coordinator. But he said he will “do fundamental work with the quarterbacks every day.”
One of Tedford’s first challenges will be to work with senior-to-be Kyle Boller, the Bears’ starting quarterback for the past three seasons. Boller, who turned down Tedford and Oregon to come to Cal, has never lived up to the hype he received as one of the nation’s top recruits in 1998.
“Kyle has tremendous ability and potential,” Tedford said. “He has all the attributes he needs to be a great quarterback.”
Tedford is considered an excellent recruiter, and he emphasized a plan to “saturate the Bay Area” in getting talent. But with most of the top players having verbally committed to schools and the uncertainty surrounding the Cal coaching staff, it will likely be a tough sell for next year’s class. Most of the current staff is on the road visiting recruits, but most of them are likely lame-duck coaches, not usually an effective recruiting tool. Tedford said he would put serious effort into filling some holes with junior college players.
A front-runner for the San Diego State head job this offseason, since filled by junior-college coach Tom Craft, Tedford removed himself for consideration for the Aztecs when he learned of Gladstone’s interest in him. Tedford has been patient in his quest for a head coach position, turning down the opportunity to be a candidate at Fresno State when Jim Sweeney resigned after the 1996 season even though Sweeney publicly campaigned for Tedford to be his successor.
“I was not ready, honestly, in my heart and soul that I wasn’t ready to be a head coach back then,” Tedford said. “It wouldn’t have been fair for me to apply for the job knowing I wasn’t ready.”
But the past five years, watching Fresno State head coach Pat Hill remake the team with his vision and watching Bellotti turn the Ducks into a national power, have given him the confidence to take over a Pac-10 team.
“I feel like I’ve made myself eligible to be a head coach,” he said. “I’ve worked under a lot of great coaches in some great programs.”