BERKELEY — Jeff Tedford made a downtrodden program relevant as coach at California, putting out competitive teams for a decade, developing dozens of NFL players and spearheading a facilities upgrade.
When he was unable to match his own early on-field success in recent years he was fired after 11 years as coach.
Cal fired Tedford on Tuesday, ending a tenure that began with great promise and ended with a disappointing run of mediocrity capped by his worst season as coach.
“This was a difficult decision made after considerable thought and analysis and reflection,” said Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour. “Jeff Tedford is a good man who has brought great success and celebration and to his university and deserves to occupy a place of honor in the Cal family. His legacy is unquestioned.”
Tedford engineered an impressive turnaround for the Bears after taking over a one-win team following the 2001 season. He won a school-record 82 games, churned out numerous NFL prospects and was a major factor in a $321 million stadium renovation.
But after winning 10 games twice in his first five years and taking a share of the 2006 conference title, Tedford was unable to keep the Bears near the top of the Pac-12 conference anymore.
The program bottomed out this season, losing the final five games to finish 3-9 for Tedford’s worst season. The Bears lost to rival Stanford for the third straight season and the year was capped by the most lopsided defeats of Tedford’s career, a 59-17 home loss to Oregon followed by a season-ending 62-14 loss at Oregon State.
Barbour met with Tedford the previous two days to discuss the future of the program and announced her decision Tuesday.
“I certainly wanted the answer to be Jeff,” she said. “But I have that obligation to do what’s right for Cal. It was a matter of did I believe that we could turn around some of these worrisome trends competitively and academically. Ultimately my conclusion was it wouldn’t be deep enough to take us to where we need to be.”
Tedford released a statement thanking the school for the opportunity to coach there.
“All involved can feel a great sense of pride with their sacrifice, contributions and commitment that have made it possible to have the winningest tenure in Cal football history,” he said. “We all can be very proud of helping to build a renovated Memorial Stadium that will have a positive impact on many athletes, fans and staff members for years to come.”
Tedford is still owed $6.9 million over the final three years of his contract, although Barbour said the sides are working on a settlement. She also said no state funds or student fees will be used to pay Tedford or the new coach.
Barbour said she would consider both NFL and college coaches and wanted to find a replacement quickly. Cal which will be aided by the firm of DHR International in the search.
The Cal players gave Tedford a standing ovation after getting the news.
“Everybody really respects coach a lot and loves coach a lot,” said Bears offensive lineman Jordan Rigsbee. “It really meant a lot to us to send him off in that way.”