Lately, the Cal Athletic Department has been stepping up their effort to reach out to younger alums. It's a strategy that makes sense - cultivating good relationship now to create lifelong Cal fans. Luckily for us cheap, under-employed recent graduates, the Athletic Department also realizes we're not flush with cash to spend indiscriminately on Cal sports.
Thus for the last two years the AD has put on the 'New Alumni Basketball Bash,' in which $25 gets you a ticket to a basketball game, a Buckhorn catered meal, drinks and guest speakers. What a deal! Last year we got to hear from former bear basketballer Nican Robinson before watching the Bears clinch the Pac-10 title against Arizona State. This year we again heard from a former hoopster in Conor Famulener, but also from Cal defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire Tosh Lupoi.
Upon arrival they even handed out raffle tickets, with my wife excitedly noticing that she was given ticket number 051 - Alex Mack's jersey number! An obvious good omen! Truly the Bears were destined to win that day, rather than fall some sort of incredibly unlikely and painful fashion. Like, say, triple overtime!
The following is all paraphrased based on mine and Avi's best recollection
Conor Famulener briefly spoke to us, mostly to describe his time as a Bear, remembering his fondest memories on the court. The most memorable was of course Cal's first round victory over NC State in the 2003 NCAA tournament, in which Richard Midgley hit an improbable game winning three pointer. Unfortunately, he also spent time reminding us all of how Cal got consistently screwed geographically by the selection committee. Playing Pennsylvania and then Pitt in Pittsburgh? Oklahoma in Oklahoma City? Yuck.
It probably wasn't a coincidence that Conor and Tosh were both speaking, because as it turns over they used to be roommates when they were both student athletes! So Conor quickly handed the mic over to Tosh.
Before fielding any questions, Tosh had three things he wanted to say:
1. We matter. Evidently the motto of Cal's new strength and condition coach Mike Blasquez is 'Everything Matters." Tosh was adamant that we young alums are very much included in that statement because we'll be laying the foundation for the continued success of Cal's athletic programs. No pressure guys!
2. AT&T Park and San Francisco is going to be awesome. So awesome that it will almost be hard to leave. The coaches loved their experience at the Emerald Bowl and have no doubt that AT&T will provide a fearsome home field advantage because fans are right on top of the field. And with the bars, restaurants and tailgating space so close to the stadium it's going to be an all day party for Cal home games this fall. Be there.
3. We brought in a great group of recruits. Tosh didn't have any videos and there wasn't really time for a detailed recruit break down, but he did say that of all the recent classes this one could see more true freshmen getting playing time than any other class in the Tedford era.
Tosh then fielded a few questions from the audience. These are paraphrased because Avinash forgot to bring a recorder (what a slacker!), but you can get the general gist:
Of last year's recruits, who will make an impact this year?
Look for Cecil Whiteside to get some playing time at linebacker, and our group of wide receivers who red shirted will make some noise, especially Tevin Carter and Kaelin Clay. They looked great on the practice squad last year, enough to make me wish we weren't red-shirting some of them.
Do you enjoy the recruiting process?
It's a unique experience. Sometimes it's tough, because you're trying to tell kids about the program, the facilities, the academics, you're trying to sell the program ... and then you have people throwing stuff at you from the trees. (Lots of laughter)
However, it's really rewarding to meet the recruits, meet their families, and start to get them to learn about the university and the great tradition they'll be a part of at the number one public institution in America.
How do you use former Cal players in the NFL to your advantage in recruiting? Do they come and talk to recruits?
Well, there are rules about what kind of contact recruits can have with former players, but we make sure that they're aware of the success our guys are having in the pros. For example, if I'm visiting with a recruit and we're holding some function/luncheon during the middle of the NFC Championship game featuring Aaron Rodgers and Desmond Bishop. Then I namedrop that Rodgers just happened to call me to talk about yesterday's Green Bay win . . .
We talk up the pro aspect a lot. Being able to sell that we're the number one school that produces NFL starters like Rodgers, Bishop, DeSean Jackson, Justin Forsett, Brandon Mebane, and [my pupil] Tyson Alualu is a big selling point to players and their families as well.
On learning under Clancy Pendergast's system
I've been fortunate to get to learn under two great defensive coaches in Bob Gregory and Clancy Pendergast. They both use two different strategies to get the same result. Under Gregory our lineman mostly tried to hold the point of attack, whereas under Pendergast we're trying to attack gaps much more. As a former D-linemen himself, I love this type of play.
Are there any teams you particularly look forward to playing?
Well, you have to get up for every team in the Pac-10/Pac-12. The conference is just so tough week in and week out - you saw that with the tough game that WSU gave us, before they went and beat Oregon St. badly. But I will admit that I get a bit more pumped to take on the Ducks.
Who's going to be calling plays?
I don't know, I'm not an offensive coach and I haven't heard how it will sort out. Are you saying that you want Tedford to coach?
(An affirmative murmur runs through the crowd.)
Okay, my sources indicate that Tedford might be calling plays next year.
With Tosh wrapping up it was time to raffle off some prizes! Two lucky fans got seat upgrades for the Arizona game, to better absorb the pain. So perhaps getting ticket #51 wasn't lucky against Arizona, but it was lucky in the raffle, because sure enough, #051 earned my wife two tickets to see the Bears play USC! 25 bucks gets you tickets to two basketball games and a meal?!? Man, I really hope I don't keep getting older!