Last fall, Bob Foster was sitting at home, retired after 36 years of coaching college football. But when new Cal head coach Jeff Tedford came calling, Foster jumped at the chance to get back on the field.
Foster, 61, is now the Bears’ linebacker coach, one of seven new coaches brought on board by Tedford (running backs coach Ron Gould is the lone holdover). Foster and Tedford worked together at Oregon, where Foster was the defensive coordinator and Tedford the offensive coordinator in 1998-99.
Foster spent two years away from the game after leaving Oregon, living in Davis with his wife, Carol. That time off was enough to convince him that he wanted to keep coaching.
“The bottom line is that I just enjoy being with the student athletes too much to stay away,” Foster said. “I love having those enthusiastic eyes on me, wanting to learn.”
Foster admitted the Cal job was a perfect opportunity for him, as he didn’t want to move far from Davis. The trek to his new home in Emeryville was short and painless.
Foster is by far the most experienced of the Cal coaches, which is part of the reason Tedford wanted him on the staff. Since this is Tedford’s first season as a head coach, Foster’s four years of leading the UC Davis program (1989-92) could prove invaluable in getting the Bears off to a good start.
“Bob would never say ‘this is how I did it, and you should do it the same way,’” Tedford said. “But I’m sure if he feels I’m going down the wrong road somewhere, he’d come over to me and say something.”
Indeed, Foster doesn’t see his role as an advisor to Tedford, but as a partner in the coaching staff. He has worked closely with defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, first at Willamette University in 1996-97, then making Gregory his defensive backfield coach at Oregon. Now Gregory is the coordinator and Foster the position coach, and the former mentor’s experience should continue to benefit his former student.
“I would certainly hope my experience would add some things to the defensive side of the team,” Foster said. “I’ve seen a lot of things, and experience is a great teacher.”
But Tedford said Foster’s influence doesn’t end with the linebackers or even the defensive players.
“Bob’s awesome with all the guys, and he creates a good atmosphere at every practice,” Tedford said. “He has a wealth of experience, and he just knows how to treat the kids.”
While Foster is enjoying his first year at Cal so far, he admits that he doesn’t know what the future holds. Retirement does have its advantages, and coaching can be exhausting, especially during fall’s two-practices-per-day schedule. But despite being the oldest coach on the field, Foster is among the most active, getting involved in drills and constantly moving around for different perspectives.
“We all know it’s a year-to-year deal for me,” Foster said. “Double-days are always tough, and you have to work hard the entire time. Once you get into the regular season, it’s more fun, since you get to play the games instead of just practicing against each other.”