Harry How - Getty Images
Jeff Tedford's fate as Cal's head coach will be determined by how willing donors plan to stick with him.
The Jeff Tedford hot seat will continue to blaze as long as the season continues the way it's been going. Obviously an immediate turnaround might change the situation altogether. But economics are starting to rear their ugly head, and they don't paint a pretty portrait for Tedford's future if things don't turnaround quickly.
The university’s goal is to raise $270 million through the ESP by next summer. According to the latest figures available, through June 30, the Bears have just $40.7 million cash in hand.
That’s not good, but it’s not quite as bad as it looks:
1. For all intent and purposes, the figure is a bit higher because a large account (approx 30 seats) is being modified and, for that reason, isn’t reflected in the report.
That single account could produce several million dollars, depending on the price of each seat, once it’s on the books.
2. The $40.7 million cash-in-hand equates to $140 million over time, which is 52 percent of the $270 million goal — assuming, of course, that the payments are made.
And there’s one of the keys to the Tedford situation: Participants in the ESP can drop out at any time, without penalty.
Imagine a scenario in which the season continues to fizzle and the university decides, for whatever reason, to keep Tedford.
How many fans would willingly write six- or seven-figure checks for the ESP?
And how many fans with existing ESP contracts and (little outlay) would cancel or threaten to cancel because, well, they just aren’t all that excited about the thought of another year under Tedford?
Everyone who has been to games has seen the rows of empty yellow seats that seem to be a fixture of every Cal football game, and it'll start becoming a huge danger. If the people who made a huge investment into Cal Athletics start checking out, then it's clear things will change. These people are far more valuable to the long-term future of our still budget-strapped athletic program, and they cannot be displeased.
It's why starting out so poorly has caused such a drastic change in thinking for everyone. No one expected 1-4. Maybe 2-3, most likely 3-2, but 1-4? And the fact that the team has been so unwatchable in each loss, with penalties, sacks, incompletions, blown 3rd down conversions, missed tackles, quizzical in-game management. With the Big Game only a few weeks away, there's the danger of many fans checking out of November. Heck, even Homecoming this week has no guarantee of being a sell-out.
So Tedford might not just have to win football games to his spot at Cal. He might have to win in exciting, entertaining fashion, whatever that may entail. His team needs to relearn discipline while also providing some tangible measure of hope. Although there are outstanding individual performances and occasional performances of excellence, the team is only as good as everyone's achievements, and so far they have fallen drastically short of that baseline.