How To Fix California
How To Fix ...
... LSU, by Russ Mitchell
... the ACC, by Terry Johnson
... California, by Rich Cirminiello
... Michigan, by Bart Doan
... Virginia Tech, by Matt Zemek
... the Big Ten, by Phil Harrison
Get a hold of the Stanford blueprint. Study it like it’s a biophysics final. And then put it into action.
Cal has fallen on hard times in recent years. After raising the bar in the early stages of the last decade, the program has played beneath it over the past few years. Since the beginning of 2009, the Bears are just 17-22 against FBS opponents, and have failed to win a bowl game over that time. This year’s ugly start is the school’s worst since 2001, and the postseason is looking increasingly out of reach. Worse yet, rival Stanford has long since passed Cal as a national entity in the sport.
The Bears are broken, but they’re not in a state of disrepair. The facilities got a much-needed makeover, and attracting quality players to Strawberry Canyon hasn’t been a problem. Something is missing, though, which is why head coach Jeff Tedford seems to be on a perpetual hot seat. He was the undisputed savior of this program during the first half of his tenure—and can clearly build a program—but he’s since hit a wall.
Now what? Athletic director Sandy Barbour has long been in his corner, and the coach’s contract runs through the 2015 season, so his ouster is hardly imminent. Still, it has to be considered if the Bears, now 1-4, continue down the same path it laid in September.
Whoever is at the controls in 2013 might want to consider a philosophical change, an overhaul that basically rips off what Stanford did when Jim Harbaugh was first hired. The Cardinal has flourished employing a pro-style offense that accentuates the use of big feature backs, fullbacks and tight ends. It has also targeted higher-profile recruits who work close to the line of scrimmage.
When Stanford lands four and five-star high-schoolers, they’re typically offensive linemen and linebackers. Foundational type players. Cal, on the hand has done a better job at the skill positions. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with landing a Keenan Allen or Bryce Treggs, elite wide receivers, but those types of players just haven’t been enough to get the Bears to a higher level in the Pac-12.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And sometimes the quickest and easiest method for a turnaround. Cal doesn’t have to look very far for its revitalization plan. Palo Alto is only about 30 miles away as the crow flies, 40 miles as the car drives. The programs are similar, both in their academic standards and with their historical reputations as football programs.
Stanford has become a much tougher, physical and more fundamentally-sound program over the past five years, and has benefitted from the new approach. Cal ought to at least consider a fresh energy on the sidelines once the regular season ends, but more important, the Bears need to become copycats, modeling their future on rival Stanford’s recent past.