Allan Bridgford made the decision to finish his degree at Cal, but he will no longer play football for the Bears, instead choosing to retain his eligibility for a final season at a yet unannounced institution. In an interview with Bear Insider's Jim McGill, Bridgford expressed a mixture of emotions: well-wishes for his former teammates coupled with frustration over his feeling that he would not have been given a chance to claim the starting quarterback job. Bridgford felt justified in this sentiment because of differences in reps preliminarily given to each candidate, which he felt were lopsided in favor of younger players.
Anyone can speculate as to whether Bridgford's story was true, false, embittered, or justified. However, to me, determining veracity or gauging the emotional impetus behind his statements is neither interesting nor relevant. I respect his feelings, and I respect the work he has put in at Memorial Stadium. I also respect that he is finishing his degree. (I totally respect him!) I think he has a right to express himself.
I also respect Sonny Dykes' complete authority as the Cal head coach. Unfortunately for players and onlookers who view football through the lens of a presumed merit-based mobility or shared goal of objective evaluation, neither of these happy American visions apply to the criteria with which Division 1 football coaches evaluate their personnel.
Those criteria are probably known solely to the coaches-- and are subject to change, if desired by the coaches.
Football is not a democracy. Lest we--or any players--bring any of our political conditioning onto the field, football, particularly at its highest levels, is a somewhat autonomous sphere, detached from the structures that govern our lives outside of a stadium. Is football devoid of politics? Absolutely not. But the politics of football more closely resemble a dictatorship, or maybe a sort of oligarchy, than a democracy. When I watch a player work for four years, anxiously await the moment his coach will recognize him, begin that process again under a new regime, and declare that he was not going to get a fair shot at the goal he'd had in his mind for his entire career, I honestly feel sorry for him. I want to root for him. Part of me wants him to get the job, because he's put in more time and work at Cal than Zach Kline or Jared Goff. But that's the part of me that forgets the workings of a Division 1 athletics program. Are those workings fair? Those workings are football.
I wish Allan Bridgford the best, and I truly hope to see him on a team that is, to use our new favorite expression at Cal, a good fit for him in the near future.
Transcript (thanks to TheScientist019 for transcribing!)
Lindsay Brauner (LB): Hey Cal fans, I'm Lindsay Brauner, here with Cal quarterback, Allan Bridgford. Allan, thanks so much for joining us.
Allan Bridgford (AB): Thank you for having me here.
LB: I wanted to start by asking you about your shoulder injury that you sustained during a weightlifting accident. Can you describe what happened there and what the road to recovery was like?
AB: It made me miss my first two years, not having the chance to compete and out here, but looking back on it, I really look at it as a blessing in disguise, whereas if I didn't have that shoulder injury, maybe I wouldn't love football as much as I do right now.
LB: Which of the non-football Cal athletes of both sexes would make the best football players?
AB: So, I would say for males... I would have to go with Ryan Wertenberger on baseball simply because he's been in football before. For girls... the girl that would be best at football-I don't know if that would be a compliment to a girl, so I'll just say one of my close friends, I'll say [field hockey forward] Lauren Livingston; she'd be a good running back or something.
LB: Can you talk to me about how much you learned specifically from Coach Tedford about being a college quarterback?
AB: A lot, I mean he was my coach for four years; he recruited me for two years before that, so that was six years of my life where he was teaching me little things, definitely moreso when I was up here and he'd be inside our meetings. He was hands-on with stuff like that where if he saw something on the practice field he'd keep you after and show you how to fix certain aspects of things. He taught me a lot and I owe a lot to that guy.
LB: If you could run into Memorial Stadium hearing the student section yell one more chant, what would it be?
AB: Definitely be "Rose Bowl."
LB: How do you feel about your new coach? Do you like his coaching style? Do you feel like he is making some necessary changes for your whole team?
AB: Yeah, definitely. I'm not really too familiar with his coaching style yet because we haven't been on the spring practice field, but I'll definitely know a lot more about that in a month or so, but just from team meetings and talking to him the few times that I have, he seems like a great guy and he has a great goal in his mind, which is what we've been talking about already, is that we need to all come together and work as hard as we can so that we can reach our ultimate goal, which is making it to a Rose Bowl and winning a lot of football games.
LB: What's the most challenging things about being a quarterback on and off the field?
AB: The most challenging thing is definitely that your teammates are always looking to you. You have to set a great example as a leader of the team, which means you can't take any plans, reps off, You can't do anything stupid off-the-field that's gonna get you unwanted attention and stuff like that.
LB: Can you tell me about your work with the Pediatric Cancer [Research] Foundation? How did you get started with that and what exactly is your role with them?
AB: Yeah, so PCRF is a foundation that my mom works for, working with kids that have cancer and raising money and stuff like that. One of my mom's really close college friends, her daughter was born and found out that she had cancer and it stunted her growth, the development of her brain, and stuff like that. We actually went to high school together because there was a special needs program at my high school, so I'd see Samantha every day and our football team got together in high school and started doing fundraising stuff and certain jog-a-thons and stuff like that to raise money for the cause. It was really humbling doing that, meeting all those kids. Every year growing up I'd go to the big, main fundraiser event that was annual and it just shows you how lucky you are in life to see all these kids that are just as happy as can be with all the problems they have; it makes you forget a lot about the problems you have in your own life.
LB: What advice do you have for all incoming student-athletes?
AB: Just work as hard as you can when you get here. Earn the respect of your teammates at first and then once you've done that, you can speak up a little bit as you get older, but just work as hard as you can and no one will ever have a problem with you.
LB: If there were one other position you could play for the Bears, what would it be and how good would you be at it?
AB: I would have to say a possession receiver. I think I have the best hands on the team, so I'd definitely say possession receiver. Catch the ball, get the first down.
LB: How has Coach Dykes conducted the initial practices and what are the leadership transitions that you've witnessed during the coaching change?
AB: Well, he hasn't been out here with us really too much, yet because it's illegal right now. We don't have spring practice for awhile, so I'll find out more about that then, but definitely with the leadership during the transition, I thought that was awesome. There were some people on the team that really stepped up and one of the coolest things, I thought, was there's always that period every year in between the season ends before you either go to the bowl game or if you don't go to the bowl game, just before the semester's over, like that dead area during finals week, so a lot of people went into the weight room to work out. Pretty much the whole team was in there and that's the first time I've seen that since I've been here, during the times where it's not mandatory that the whole teams in there working out. So, I thought that was great leadership on the whole team. It was pretty neat to see.
LB: Allan, thanks so much for joining us. We look forward to seeing you play this coming season.
AB: Thank you, I had fun. Thanks for having me.
LB: I'm Lindsay Brauner for Cal TV.