Tedford remains professional after firing

Jeff Tedford (US Presswire)

Shocked California players gave former head coach Jeff Tedford a standing ovation during a team meeting on Tuesday.

BERKELEY, Calif. – When California athletic director Sandy Barbour made the decision to fire head coach Jeff Tedford on Monday evening, it produced a surreal Tuesday of two contrasting emotions, of stoic professionalism and of absolute shock.

Barbour decided to move on without Tedford, the most successful coach in school history, citing her belief that the Golden Bears could not recapture the athletic and academic success from the early part of his tenure.

"I certainly wanted the answer to be Jeff, but as I said before, I have that obligation to do what's right for Cal," Barbour said in an afternoon press conference at Haas Pavilion. "It's a matter of did I believe that we could turnaround some of these worrisome trends competitively and academically, and ultimately my conclusion was it wouldn't be."

Tedford, who had made his case for two days that he should receive a 12th season in charge, showed his commitment to the end, meeting with players at 10 a.m. in the Simpson High-Performance Center he helped get built.

And while speculation about Tedford's job security had swirled for months as Cal struggled through a 3-9 season, the worst of Tedford's tenure, offensive lineman Jordan Rigsbee said his dismissal still came as a shock to most of his teammates.

"No one really knew how to react to it," Rigsbee said. "After we heard, the whole team kind of stayed together, tried to pull together, and just talk what we're going to do from here."

Linebacker Nick Forbes compared it to the arrival of a storm.

"You can't really know how it is going to be until it hits," Forbes said. "It's been tough."

Though many players had already gone home for Thanksgiving, Tedford received a standing ovation in what one veteran staffer described as the most emotional exit he could recall.

Tedford spoke to the team for about 15 minutes, followed by Barbour. When players began to filter out, junior wide receiver Keenan Allen the first to exit, many still looked shell-shocked, and all declined comment. Rigsbee and Forbes later spoke to the media after Barbour's press conference.

"Everything that he said you felt was genuine and came straight from his heart," Forbes said. "We all got a moment to say goodbye to him. I just thanked him for the opportunity he game me and wished him the best of luck going forward."

"Everyone respects Coach a lot," Rigsbee said. "I love Coach a lot. It really meant a lot to send him off in that way, so it was nice."

Former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast left the football complex at about 10:45 a.m., while other coaches came and went.

Five assistants – offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik, running backs coach Ron Gould, wide receivers coach Wes Chandler, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, and defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose – will oversee recruiting and other day-to-day operations in the interim. Whether any remains on staff will be up to the next head coach.

Now the focus turns to hiring Tedford's replacement, a task for which DHR International has been enlisted to serve as a consultant and intermediary with potential candidates. However, the ultimate decision rests with her and other campus leaders, Barbour said, something she hopes to do as "expeditiously as we possibly can.

"It's a huge responsibility that I embrace on behalf of this institution," she said. "Football is incredibly important to us not only as a department but as a University, emotionally, financially. There is no other place on this campus where 65,000 people gather on any given Saturday afternoon or evening. It occupies a very, very important role and important place in this University, and so finding new leadership for that program is terribly, terribly important."

No student fees or state funds will be used to hire the new coach and his staff or pay out the balance of Tedford's contract, which totals nearly $7 million, though negotiations for a buyout are underway, Barbour said.

Asked what criteria would be used when evaluating candidates, integrity was the first mentioned by Barbour, something Tedford showed to the end.

"Jeff has been a complete class act," Barbour said. "He was disappointed. He wanted to continue to lead Cal football. He made that clear every step of the way. He understands this is part of what you take on when you get into college coaching, when you get into any coaching. He approached it professionally and throughout the course of the day worked to make this transition for our student-athletes as seamless as possible."

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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