"We're going to need your support to make AT&T a home field advantage because the players feed off of that."
Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour recently hosted a dinner to thank the donors of the Endowed Seating Program.(ESP) Coach Jeff Tedford was present as the keynote speaker and he brought his entire coaching staff as well as senior standouts Anthony Miller and Sean Cattouse.
What exactly is the Endowed Seating Program? From the Cal main website:
It is a first-of-its-kind program in college athletics designed to secure the long-term financial future for Cal Athletics.
The University - will realize a more competitive Athletic Department to complement one of the world's foremost academic institutions, while the Athletic Department will develop financial self-sufficiency in an increasingly challenging funding environment with no state support.
Donors - will receive "VIP" treatment at Memorial Stadium with their ESP commitment, including key benefits such as club privileges, transfer rights to seats, tax deductibility, and free tickets with no price increases for up to 50 years.
*To find out more, Cal has created a site solely dedicated to the ESP at www.calesp.com.
Hall of Fame Room, Haas Pavilion
Grandpa and Grandma Kodiak were kind enough to attend this event and shared their notes with me. A big thank-you from CGB for their help. (If you see them at the games, you owe them a "Go Bears!") For those of you as starved for Cal football news as we are, please enjoy:
Sandy Barbour Excerpts:
Thank you all for your commitment to this athletic program, to this football program, for your shared vision which is a renovated Memorial Stadium, a Student Athlete High Performance Center, national championship teams, and doing it the right way. We would not be were we are today without you.
On the SAHPC:
I've been at Cal for 7 years, the SAHPC wasn't even a concept seven years ago.
The need for better facilities absolutely was. We're literally days away from getting into the SAHPC. It's had a huge impact on our recruiting. Soon it will have a huge impact on the daily lives of our athletes. We're all excited. I can feel a buzz in the air. It leads with football, it leads with Jeff Tedford.
On this past year's success:
We're coming off a phenomenal year whether it's our two national championship finalists with men's water polo and women's volleyball, two national championships within two days with women's swimming and men's swimming, our national championship in rugby, the great baseball run to the college world series, the women's softball run to the women's world series. All of that excellence, 14 top ten finishes, resulted in a #3 finish in the the Director's Cup. That is our highest finish ever. I remember talking about top 5 positions in the Director's Cup, and people looked at me like "what she's talking about?" Well look at this year. This is what we're talking about. And remember, I've been talking about Rose Bowls and National Championships in football.
Sandy Barbour on the ESP:
We're here to thank you for your commitment to our Endowed Seating Program. It's providing conditions for success for our student athletes. It's about financial stability in our athletic program. Obviously we've had our troubles in that regard. But this program is about that for our future. And we need the time to get there. A number of you stepped up with regards to those five programs to ensure that they had a future and I want to thank you all for that. We're almost 60% to our seat sales goal. When I look at other models for stadium renovations, they sell about 80% of their seats in the twelve months prior to the opening. So, we're ahead of that. We'd like to be further. We're going to need your help for that. A lot of the success of the next phase will be peer solicitation and referrals.
On Jeff Tedford:
When we talk about Jeff Tedford's leadership, we talk about him going into his 10th year, and from being one win away from being the winningest coach in Cal football history. When you talk about Jeff Tedford, you talk about bowl wins, but you also talk about a graduation rate that's gone from the 40's to the 70's. You talk about an academic progress rate that in some years has been perfect. You talk about young men that we are so proud that Jeff and his staff have recruited to this university. Like an Alex Mack, like a Michael Mohammed. That's what you're used to. We call it comprehensive excellence. It's what you demand. It's what we have in Jeff Tedford.
Coach Tedford Excerpts:
On his coaching staff:
We have the finest coaching staff in the country.
We have two guys back, Jim Michalchik and Eric Kiesau. They came to their senses and came back home. I'd like to introduce Ron Emilio who has taken over our Career Development program. He's in the Cal Hall of Fame as a safety. He's very important to us. Career development. When our guys are done with their careers if they're not going to keep playing football, then they're ready to use the great degree that they have.
Going on ten years, can't hardly believe. I talked to my wife the other day about the early days, about those bowl game victories. And I told her, "I can't wait for that to happen this year." You go one year without a bowl game and it feels like forever. We're really excited to get started. You can only run so much before you want to hit someone.
I want to thank all of you. With you, this wouldn't be possible. To create opportunities for these student-athletes, not just the football players, but where they can get a great education and still compete at a high level at such a great institution as Cal. I'll tell you right now. Our #1 recruiting tool is the strength of the Cal degree and the Cal alumni.
We had a great recruiting class this year. The High Performance Center had a lot to do with that. We didn't have a year last year up to our standards for the 1st time in 9 years, but we still had a very strong recruiting class. What that tells me is the body of our work and the brand that we have here at Cal is very strong. And you have a lot to do with that.
On AT&T and character:
As we move to AT&T this year, it's no big deal. As we tell our players, home is where the heart is. And where our teammates are, that's where home is. We get between those lines, it doesn't matter where we play. We're going to be together. I'm so proud of this team and this program. Not just what they do on the field, but what they're doing academically, and how they're graduating, and the choices that they're making, and their character. We never see their names at the bottom of the blog or the ESPN ticker for making poor decisions. We can be very proud of who they are. They really understand that they represent more than themselves, their teammates, and their family, and that they also represent this institution and the alumni that care about it.
I am so privileged and proud to be the coach here. It's been a great ride so far, but we have not gotten where we want to go. Sandy keeps pressuring me about that. I think we're kind of keeping a lot of people alive - the way you keep hearing "I'm staying alive until we get to the Rose Bowl." (laughter) It's definitely a goal. We've gotten close a couple of times, but that's not good enough. We're going to need your help this year. We're going to need your support to make AT&T a home field advantage because the players feed off of that.
On the new stadium:
Moving into the new stadium will be awesome. When I first got here ten years ago, I just had this drawing of a High Performance Center with a little sticker that said "Coach, you're going to be here." I have to thank all of the people behind the scenes for getting all this done. Like we got the people out of the trees. You have to understand - for a year and a half, those were my neighbors. I'd wake up to those people every morning yelling and waving things. We're happy moving forward. I see some people here have pieces of the benches. That's bittersweet for me. It was very emotional walking through that tunnel and thinking of all the great tradition and the people who walked through that tunnel before us. And then to walk through the tunnel and see it all demolished. So to see pieces of those benches, that's emotional. There have been so many great times in that stadium, such a great tradition. I am very proud to be a representative of that and will do my best to continue to make you all proud and reach our goals. Our job is to raise these young men to achieve their potential athletically, academically, emotionally, and spiritually.
On Maynard & Allen's family connection:
So, we have a new quarterback. And, going into camp, we've named the starter. And that's Zach Maynard.(applause) He's Keenan Allen's brother. And you know how talented Keenan is. We joke all the time about a passing tree. Anyone know what a passing tree is? A passing tree means you run down, and run out. You run down, and you run in. You run down, and you run a post. That's a passing tree. And on a passing tree, your progression as a quarterback has you throwing different places. And then you have a family tree.(laughter) With Zach Maynard and Keenan Allen. That takes precedence a lot of the time.(laughter) But fortunately, when they do that lots of good things happen.
On Maynard's athletic ability:
Zach brings the ability to do a lot of things, move the pocket, manufacture plays at times. Because let's face it - not everything goes as planned. When it's time to pull it down and do some things, he can do some things. He makes good decisions, he's smart. Now we can incorporate a few more designed QB runs. He's smart enough to and elusive enough to make those work, and still get down. So, very excited about Zach.
On the offense:
I think a couple of strengths of our offense will be our offensive line and wide receivers. We have Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen, Michael Calvin. We have Anthony Miller who has been starting a long time for us. Our offensive line with Mitchell Schwartz who has started 38 straight games for us. I think that is a strength.
On the tailback position:
What we're going to have to evaluate through camp is the tailback position. We've been very spoiled at tailback through the years. Wouldn't you agree?(applause) And we've been spoiled due to Coach Gould's great coaching. We've been very fortunate to always have productive coming back, whether Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Best, or Vereen. We don't have that same production coming back this year. We have talent, but we just haven't seen it produce yet. That said, we're very excited about who we have. You're going to see some of the young talented freshmen be major contributors on offense. We have a couple of young men that you're going to be very impressed with. Brendan Bigelow is like Jahvid Best. He's as fast as anyone you're ever going to see. Hopefully he can stay healthy and get some playing time for us.
On Coach Pendergast:
We were #1 in total defense last year. Clancy Pendergast and his staff did a tremendous job. Now we're in year two. Our players have a much better understanding of what we want to run. I think Clancy has a better comfort level with the college game. After 15-16 years in the NFL, the transition to college is tough - every week there's something different. Power I one week, spread another. It takes some time to get a feel for that.
On the defense:
Even though we lost three great players to the NFL. We have a lot of talented guys to replace them. Trevor Guyton. Lots of experience at nose tackle with Tipoti and Kendrick Payne. Great linebacking corp led by Mychal Kendricks. Very strong secondary with two corners who started most of last year and two experienced safeties in Cattouse and Campbell. But we have great depth there as well with Josh Hill.
On special teams:
Bryan Anger is an All-American punter. We don't want him to be our #1 weapon.(laughter) He's very capable of changing field position, but we don't want him to be the featured guy. Giorgio Tavecchio has grown more than anyone. His leg strength has gotten better. Last year, you saw it was better. This year will be better yet. He's really matured and improved. I think our special teams will be solid.
Q: With the knee injury to Bigelow, will you redshirt him?
A: No. He's 100%. That happened over a year ago. We're being careful with the evaluations. But his injured leg is stronger than his other leg. We feel very good about that. He's chomping at the bit to get going. He has so much energy. You really have to keep an eye on that. He is so talented and has so much energy - he's always trying to stuff. I got a call from a doctor the other night, and he's 100%. Now we're going to watch him carefully and be sure we monitor his health. Maybe two-a-days, we'll limit his reps. He's as talented a player as we've ever recruited here. And that's saying a lot, with Aaron Rogers, Desean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch. He's as talented a guy running the football as they come. Now...I don't know if he can block a soul(laughter)...but he can sure run.
Q: I read that you're going to call the plays this year?
A: We're going to call the plays as a staff. I'm going to be very involved. I kind of stepped away from that last year to give them the room to develop their own identity...so that the head coach isn't always meddling. Well, I'm going to start meddling again. I can't tell how you how confident I am in this offensive staff. I can tell you right now - the communication that goes on, the foundation we have going back to the early days...it's like the bands back together again. There are no inhibitions in the meeting room, no one worried about speaking up because of what I might think of them - there's none of that. I'm not going to do it on my own. We have way too much knowledge and experience in that room and we're going to incorporate everyone.
Q: Is the most recent recruiting class still intact? How are you going to incorporate the new talent?
A: Yes. Everyone is here. They're all certified and good to go. This recruiting class has the most ability to make an immediate impact of any that we've had. Especially on defense. We recruited very heavily on defense. The three corners are definitely going to play. I feel very comfortable saying that. McClure, Willis, Jackson - we brought those three in to play. And the defensive linemen, you have Moala, Scarlett, Todd Barr, those guys can all go. Moala. That guy came in. And he's a monster. We have to get him down some. He reported at 370. And he doesn't look like 370...he looks like 340.(laughter) And that's a compliment, by the way. He's thick, he can move, he's a very good player. He can compete early. Scarlett can really run. Todd Barr is an excellent athlete. Now this is what we've seen on high school tape. In order to contribute, you have to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready. You can be the most physical guy in the world, but not understand the playbook. So it's a process. The game moves very fast. It's not high school ball, it's Division I, Pac-12 football. There are no weeks off. Some of the linebackers, like Jason Gibson could play. At tight end, Richard Rogers looks very good.
Q: How is special teams looking?
A: We're great with Bryan Anger. Giorgio has improved. I think he'll have a big senior season. And then the coverage team. I think when you bring young guys on - the reality is that they're going to make early contributions on special teams. When you have some of the body types you have, I think they will make the transition. I think our coverage teams will be excellent. Our return game, that will be a work in progress to see who is going to handle punts through the season. And on kickoff returns, we have so many guys who can handle a ball, that really needs to be evaluated.
Q: (mumbled) (Asked about the impact on the new strength and conditioning coach?)
A: Absolutely. It would be an oversight for me not to mention that. Strength and conditioning coach Blasquez is out of De La Salle. He's been working with basketball and head of conditioning. I can't tell you enough how much of an impact he's had with our team. The energy, the intensity, the enthusiasm, the commitment to one another as a team...not to mention they all look different. Just look at them flex.(laughter) Our players look different now than they did last year. It's been all about team. All about competitiveness. I can't wait to see these guys on the field. I think we're in the best shape we've ever been in. After you go through a season like we went through - as I said before it was not up to our standards. You have to take a hard look and say what do we need to change, what do we need to improve? We can talk as much we want about last year, but it's over. It's done. It's all about positive energy moving forward. And gaining everything back that we know Cal football is. It's time to do that now. When the seconds ticked off last year, at the end of the last game and we realized we weren't going to a bowl. The reality hit us like a sledge hammer. And now, we get to do something about it. I'm not making predictions. But I can tell you that we're going to give everything we have, coaches, players, and fans.
Grandpa and Grandma Kodiak with Coach Tedford and their newly signed Cal football. They asked the coach that for their next picture they'd like him to pose with a bowl trophy. Go Bears! (Yes, I am grateful that my parents were smart enough to encourage me to go to Cal. Thanks, Mom & Dad!)