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Remembering Cal coach Roger Theder

Go Bears.

Roger Theder
Cal Football

CGB reader Bruce D. had these memories of Roger Theder he wanted to share with us. You can find him on Twitter at calbearfore.

Also, take a listen to Section925’s podcast on Theder.

My memories of Roger Theder:

I met Roger Theder in 1976 when Mike White was the head coach, and when Cal had an all world coaching staff (see below), including Roger. That was back in the day of "film", and many games were not televised, and highlights (home and away) were grainy and hard to find. So the Cal coaches would come to the Leopard Cafe in downtown San Francisco every Tuesday night with "game film" in hand. We would watch or re-watch the game, with coaches commentary. Plus more than a few beers! This was hosted a club known as the "Golden Bear Club", of which I was a member and later a board member.

Like what people are saying recently about Arnold Palmer, I remember Roger as genuine, and just purely a "good guy". He shook your hand and looked you into the eye when engaged in conversation. He was interested in what you had to say.

Roger appreciated true Cal fandom over big donors. In today's wild budget crisis at Cal, the dollar speaks too loudly and the coaches and athletic department are prisoners to daddy warbucks. Back in Roger's day, he really appreciated the every day loyal fan, especially a small core in the 70's and early 80's who traveled to most Cal football road games; many of whom were in the Golden Bear Club.

In Roger's first year as head coach, 1978, he had already seen me at the Leopard Cafe and at numerous Cal road games. Including his first game as head coach, at Nebraska. Most of the "travel bears" went to Nebraska and Georgia Tech, Roger's first 2 games in 1978. So a few weeks later when Cal played its 3rd road game in 4 weeks, only a handful of fans traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia; including me. Most Cal fans at that game (maybe a total of 300) lived in the east coast. Less than 50 came from California. After the game, Roger saw me walking on the field and invited me into the Cal victorious locker room. Then he invited me on the Cal team bus to Pittsburgh, to dinner with the team in Pittsburgh, and I flew home on the Cal plane, sitting next to Cal quarterback Rich Campbell. A great memory for me.

He was a stellar quarterback coach. He mentored Rich Campbell, who set many passing records and later played for Green Bay. He took Journeyman QB Jay Torchio and created one of the top Big Game memories, 1980 upset over John Elway, which I think knocked Furd out of Peach Bowl. He became a famous quarterback mentor and quarterback coach after leaving Cal.

Roger gave honest answers to fans and press questions:

There was no hiding behind the Foster Grant sunglasses like Tedford. Roger spoke the truth. He did not waste his time to construct politically correct answers, as is the norm today. He told it like it is.

By the way, the Cal Assistant Football Coaches in the 70's and 80's could have their own wing in the Football Hall of Fame. Look at some of the assistant football coaches at Cal, and think how successful and revolutionary they became; such as:

Al Saunders

Gunther Cunningham

Dom Capers

Paul Hackett

Artie Gigantino

Mouse Davis

Al Borges

Larry Kuharich

Rod Marinelli

One big memory includes the the 1979 Garden State Bowl, which was Cal's first bowl game since 1959 Rose Bowl. Mick Luckhurst wearing his sweatpants to kick an extra point, as he forgot he had them on; temps by this time in the game were low 20's. Roger did not panic, did not waste a time-out, just used the opportunity to needle Mick after the game, and for years later. Mick was quite the personality, being one of the first British born football players at the time.