This is an opinion piece that is not meant to reflect the opinions of the entire CGB writing staff. These opinions are mine alone, and everyone else is free to share in them.
In sports, it always seems to be the guy you least expect.
Cleveland has LeBron James. Boston has Roger Clemens. Orlando has Shaquille O'Neal. Baton Rouge has Nick Saban (okay, everyone knew Nick was a sociopath; he'd betray his mother for a weakside rush linebacker). But it's always the person that you least expect that ends up being the one who sticks the knife, then twists it for good measure.
We all knew the clock was ticking on Tosh Lupoi. We all knew that even as we made big recruiting victory after victory that Cal was going to have to pony up money to keep him. He was too valuable, too coveted, too sought after. The Bears would have to do a lot to keep him.
When he took the Washington job, it wasn't too much of a surprise. I hardly begrudge him leaving for the Monopoly money Sark was throwing at him at UW that Cal would have a hard time matching (and we're talking full salary, not public salary--Tosh is probably getting well-compensated by deep-pocketed Husky donors, plus he has a boat!). It's a killing for a defensive line coach, and he'll be in great shape for years to come.
Even if it was in-conference, even if it was intra-division, it might've just been an interlude. We'd have hoped that one day he would return, possibly to help lead the program in future endeavors. He'd done so much for us. Maybe he could come back and do it again.
But it didn't end at that. How he left the program, and how he's currently conducting himself can't be forgiven.
Based on what I've heard from multiple sources, this is a pretty accurate version of what went down.
Tosh was offered a job at Wash and he came to JT with the "my heart is here speech". JT went and fought for Tosh to get the offer matched. JT and Tosh have a meeting where JT tells Tosh how much he wants to keep him, how he is an integral part of what they are doing, etc. He says that he went and got the offer matched and that he wanted him to stay, but that he won't/can't get into a bidding war for Tosh and that he (JT) needs his (Tosh's) word that this is done and that he (Tosh) isn't going anywhere. Tosh assures JT this is over. Tosh breaks his word, continues talking to UW and gets another offer which he doesn't present to JT, as he has already been told and committed to no bidding war.
JT didn't find out Tosh was gone (by voicemail) until he got off the plane for a recruiting trip Tosh was supposed to meet JT on. They were supposed to meet yesterday to recruit and Tosh didn't show.
Combine that with the fact that Tosh is breaking the unwritten coaches code of only recruiting for one school and he is dead to me and I suspect Cal and JT as well. If you are recruiting and switch schools, you stop recruiting those guys... pass them off to another on staff.
Truly despicable. In my estimation, JT has committed a multitude of sins, but this fiasco isn't on him. No one looks rosy in this, but this is Tosh's doing.
You know what the best part of this horrible story? Jim McGill (who generally has the scoop) says that's the sugarcoated version.
I'll just say this: It's worse than the original narrative.
I get being underappreciated and all the ramifications that come with it but when you clear out in the middle of the night with no warning and are immediately in contact with recruits that morning when your employers don't even know yet and start not only recruiting for your new program the guys you recruited for Cal but tell them, "DON'T GO TO CAL?"
That and other actions make this an irreparable rift, imo.
Who knows what went on behind the scenes for this series of events to take place. Here's what I do know.
- Tosh was recruiting Shaq Thompson the night before he made his decision to go to UW, and spilled on the record that he was thinking of moving on to Seattle. Repeat: Tosh openly admitted with a recruit ON AN IN-HOME VISIT FOR CAL that he might've been interested in taking the UW job. I'm not sure if this is a violation or not, but it is definite sabotage; to do that on Cal's dime is revolting.
The next day he was on the phone with Shaq selling him on the virtues of UW. Who does that?
- For those who don't get the big deal about Lupoi recruiting Shaq to UW: You just don't recruit guys on two different staffs in one recruiting cycle, not unless you want to be looked at like an utter slimeball. It's a dishonest and reprehensible way to do business that approaches SEC-level shenanigans. It's not illegal, but it's highly unethical, and it sends mixed messages to the kids and their parents. Ed Orgeron pulled this crap when he left Tennessee with Lane Kiffin, and the Vols lost a lot of good recruits. It's highly dirty recruiting.
If Tosh really believed in honor, he'd have passed the recruitment of Shaq by UW onto another member of the staff to conduct his own affairs. This is DIRTY.
- That Lupoi went and visited Jordan Payton a week and a half after securing his commitment to Cal and a DAY after leaving Cal is a total snake move. Even if Payton isn't sold on UW, it might make him break his commitment to Cal, which is exactly what Washington wants. Cal might have ended up with the best recruiting class in the country thanks to Tosh. Tosh clearly wants to make sure that doesn't happen anymore, and will do whatever he can to break up this class and leave it in tatters.
After all, if Tosh wants these kids to follow and emulate him, what better way to do that than by deserting your commitment to Cal?
- Tosh did not inform Gabe King of his decision in any form, which would lead you to believe he didn't inform anyone on the Cal defensive line or defense at all of his desire to walk. No courtesy call, no nothing. Kudos to the players for giving thanks to the man, but this runs counter to Tosh's messages of loyalty and honor (but hey, plenty of time to talk to Shaq!).
- Tosh leaving Tedford out in the lurch on a plane to somewhere (and this is definitely public record) is just plain awful. Not only did it probably ruin a recruiting visit to a top target, I'm guessing it must've been done for Tosh and UW to get a head start on the trail. Meanwhile Tedford is left scrambling all day trying to assuage recruits that nothing's wrong, having to do a rushed in-home visit with a local recruit, then getting back on a plane to Berkeley all the while calling every recruit and commit to make sure everything would be ok.
This reeks of Sark's orders. That Tosh went along with it is vile.
- Finally, Tosh breaking his word to Tedford at that final meeting.
This is hard to stomach, because I always felt Lupoi put a lot of stock into his word. But it's clear that for him to straight-out lie to Tedford meant two likely options.
Option #1: He felt like Tedford and Cal lowballed him with his deal, and hurt by what he was given, reneged on his word and went straight to UW. Even if he didn't like the deal the Bears gave him, lying about not talking to UW shows a streak of immaturity.
If Tosh had any honor, he would've said, "No, I'm going to keep talking to Washington", Tedford would have had ample time to prepare himself for the situation, get a list ready and prepare recruits for the news, particularly a guy like Armstead who had been strongly considering Cal. This Brutus display reflects very poorly on him.
Still, that version of what happened sure sounds better than option 2.
Option #2: He knew he was leaving for Washington the whole time and spent the whole time milking both sides for maximum value on his deal. That would be downright malicious, and would've meant Sarkisian and Lupoi had been planning this for awhile.
Why would they play this game? Only one reason comes to mind: The active sabotage of Cal's recruiting class, all while Tosh was still a Bear.
Sarkisian is no dummy. Other than SC, who will get who they want, Cal is the only other West Coast power landing top recruiting talent (Oregon is a system school and generally finds recruits tailored to their system). Cal took a bunch of UW recruits last year and has lost almost every head-to-head recruiting battle with Tedford lately, regardless of results on the field. Sark wanted to strike Cal a death blow and unravel their recruiting class.
So poach their best with money. Take Tosh, find his asking price, play this game, then force this move two weeks after firing most of his defensive staff to cause maximum chaos for all involved.
Yeah. I prefer Option #1. McGill makes me think Option #2 isn't out of the question though.
(And I'm sure there's an Option #3 involving hookers and blow. But that would require a novella.)
Regardless of what happened, Tosh knew on his trip to Sacramento to visit Thompson and Armstead that he would be leaving for UW, and didn't inform Tedford during the visits. This is the mark of a traitor.
I sure hope Sark the Trojan is happy with his handiwork. Even Pete didn't stoop this low. He'll get what's coming to him in ten months.
The past couple of years, Tosh Lupoi stood for all that was good and strong about the program despite the on-field struggles. He was a young, dynamic Bear who was loyal to the program, loyal to the vision of what Cal could be. He'd be the main to lead our recruiting efforts, to build a new Cal football program that would contend for Rose Bowls. The sky was the limit for him in Bear Territory. The next defensive coordinator. The top recruiting coordinator. Maybe even head coach. The main who'd become the part of a new age.
Not going to happen anymore. Not at Cal. Not after this. Tosh looks like a mercenary, a man without principles, a snake in the grass. He's selling out the principles that made him a great figure for Cal Athletics, and he's disgracing his Golden Bear roots with his actions.
Perhaps recruits will still buy what he has to sell now that he's shown his true colors. It's clear that he has an effect on these guys and knows how to interact with them. Plenty of former Cal players stand up for him. I have no doubt that he'll be an effective recruiter at UW. The pitches will be similar (rebuild UW to greatness) and the interaction will be the same. Tosh has built relationships for years with these kids, and he'll do his best to get guys like Shaq and Payton to be Huskies ... or worse for us, not to be Golden Bears.
Still, all the Twittering and X-Boxing in the world won't save him from this one question. "How can we trust you with our son if we can't even be sure you'll be here a year from now?" He could've been secure answering that at Cal. No longer, no more.
I'm through with him. If you bleed blue and gold, you should be through with him too.