Does Sandy Barbour Deserve Blame For The Nevada Loss?

Since it's still the weekend, I want to focus on what we were doing in Reno on a Friday night to begin with. The Bear Will Not Quit was not pleased with playing this game at Nevada and seemed distinctly annoyed at Jeff Tedford for scheduling this matchup.

First off, for whatever reason, Tedford can't seem to get his players ready for these non-conference games where Cal is favored. By "ready," sometimes it's lack of focus and motivation. Sometimes it's crappy game plans that put them in terrible position during games, leaving them shocked when what they're doing isn't working against a perceived lesser opponent. Sometimes it's lack of proper adjustments when it becomes clear the team has underestimated or poorly planned for an opponent and things are going badly. Sometimes, it's a combination. Whatever it is, Tedford and his staff seem to really step on their dicks in these non-conference games.

There are some things I disagree with in that post. He glosses over our impeccable home record in non-conference games (undefeated since 2004, with strong wins over Michigan State), our dominance over Big Ten opponents, and only three actual non-conference defeats since 2002.  Prior to this matchup, Maryland was the only real scheduling gaffe (early start time) that involved poor planning (jet-lagging the day before) on Tedford's part.

Anyway, I'm not sure you can blame Tedford for this matchup. Because Tedford didn't have any part with scheduling this game. This was our AD's brainchild.

Let's take us a year back.

Cal and Nevada have scheduled three upcoming football games, the schools announced Thursday. The Golden Bears will travel to Nevada for a game on Sept. 18, 2010, and the Wolf Pack will visit Berkeley twice in future years. Dates for the two scheduled games in Berkeley will be announced at a later date.

"We're pleased to be able to renew a series competing against a quality opponent such as Nevada," said Cal Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. "Both schools have quality football programs, and our proximity to each other is sure to draw great fan interest and produce an exciting series of games."

However, Tedford had no part in scheduling this game.

Here is a few facts from radio broadcast of University of Nevada football game broadcast last night (Reno 630 AM):
. Coach Tedford said that he did not schedule this game (and sounded very concerned about it's being scheduled in Reno) when asked by Nevada football broadcaster why a road game on a short week and why Cal has traveled to Reno for the first time ever (this was before the kick-off)
. Nevada Athletic Director strongly thanked Sandy for arranging the game and arranging for Cal coming to Nevada to help Nevada have a very rare (first ever?) sell out crowd at their stadium (this was during the half-time)

Here are the problems I do have with scheduling this game.

1) It was moved to Friday night and we acquiesced to it. Just a bad idea. The Pistol offense definitely needs the full week to prepare for, and while I'm not sure the extra day might've made a HUGE difference, who knows how much one more practice could've done for the team.

2) Speaking of practice, scheduling this game the first week of the season would've helped. Partly due to (1), but also Cal could've prepared for this game first and foremost. Also they could have prepared in particular for the rigors of playing at high altitude. The Bears didn't need extra time to prepare for the UC Davis Aggies. It was clear Nevada was going to be the toughest opponent we would face coming into the season.

If we were going to play the Wolf Pack, they should have been the first opponent, not the third. We held the cards. It's not like Nevada would've been, "oh no, we can't ruin our precious season opener with Eastern Washington." A game with the Bears would've been big business for their school and they'd have done anything to ensure our game was first priority. Not smart thinking to schedule the game this way as a bridge between out-of-conference and Pac-10 competition.

3) One thing I do agree with on the Bear Will Not Quit. There is no upside to beating Nevada other than a "Oh, awesome, you did what you were supposed to do." The downside is tremendous--losing to a 'pathetic' WAC opponent on national television that plays no defense just earns you the contempt of the rest of the nation. It doesn't excite the fans unless we win big, it doesn't totally enthuse the players because they expect to win, and if we underachieve we come away very disappointed.

On the flip side, it totally pumps up the opponents, who know they're playing with house money and are fired up to prove they're as good as a big team opponent. Just ask that mediocre Fresno State team that lit up 2005 USC for 42 points, or Mountain West teams owning Pac-10 squads at home, etc. It's a double-edged sword, and both of them point toward the Bears. (And it's why I'm terrified at the thought of scheduling Fresno State again.)

Go for it all with a big marquee name or give us a MWC/WAC/FCS opponent at home. I appreciated the A-B-C scheduling for awhile, but I'm all for moving to one big game a year, or two A opponents after all these struggles with moderate opponents. Thankfully with Ohio State and Texas coming up, we should be heading toward that model in the upcoming years.

4) The fact that Tedford or anyone with operations seemed not be involved with the scheduling of this opponent is what really sticks in my craw. Yeah, I know, people complain about Tedford being a control freak, but as the head coach he should have at least SOME say on who we play or who we don't play. Athletic directors are great voices and are all for big matchups, but ultimately they know very little about football logistics. Tedford's the one who's got to gameplan for these guys, and he knew all along that this team was a bad matchup for Nevada, and the situation that Barbour had put our team in was less than optimal. I hope that both Tedford and Barbour will learn to coordinate together on planning for any future opponents.

There are a lot of coaching issues that need to be addressed from last Saturday's game, but Sandy should take her share of the blame. She put our Golden Bears in a tough situation on a Friday night in Reno, and although it didn't ensure we would lose, it sure made the outcome that much more likelier.

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