There's a naked guy near Jeff Tedford's office who might have the last say. If the guy stays long enough and, well, stays naked long enough and the giddiness of this week surrounding California football could evaporate.
Cal is at its highest point in the past 55 years, ranked No. 3 in both polls, a charmed survivor of the biggest rash of top-level upsets in four years.
|Dodd's Heisman Watch|
|1. Andre Woodson, Kentucky|
|2. Matt Ryan, Boston College|
|3. DeSean Jackson, Cal|
|4. Tim Tebow, Florida|
|5. Darren McFadden, Arkansas|
Well, not exactly a survivor. More like an emerging powerhouse after winning at Oregon. The Bears control their own destiny in the BCS. No. 2 Southern California comes to Berkeley on Nov. 10. Win that and the possibilities are as endless as that view of San Francisco Bay from the Memorial Stadium press box.
At this moment Cal is better than the Trojans, more well rounded, more impressive, but like we said, there's this naked guy ...
He represents the tipping point between the school, Tedford, political activists and the future of Cal football.
Since December a group of activists have climbed into a grove of oak trees to protest the construction of new athletic facilities. One of them gets naked from time to time. He was a tourist attraction during the season opener against Tennessee. While protecting the trees, the activists themselves are protected by a chain link fence and, on game days, a security force.
"There's a lot of concerns about our fans taking matters into their own hands," a Cal spokesman said.
For now, the activists have won. Ground isn't going to be broken any time soon. A judge is expected to rule soon regarding a tangled web of lawsuits that have delayed what athletic director Sandy Barbour believes will take the program to the next level.
|Jeff Tedford's contract runs through 2013, but the NFL could still come calling. (Getty Images)|
Sure, Cal has Tedford tied down and Tedford has security. Right? Before answering, come back with me a couple of years ago to Tedford's office. The coach pulled out a set of plans to show me what was going to be built. He was proud, fired up. The vision of Cal football as a true player on the national scene was about to be fulfilled.
Since that day, his program is stronger. His wallet is fatter. Tedford could earn a reported $4.3 million by 2011 if he hits all of his incentives.
Is Tedford happier about that vision? Hard to say. Cal's success in any given period has almost always been viewed as a temporary situation. Tedford has given the program its most stability, maybe ever. Cal is established as an annual top 15 team, despite what LSU's Les Miles thinks. It is one of only two teams to snag a piece of the Pac-10 dominated by USC the past five years. The Bears were Pac-10 co-champs last season.
The fact that Tedford was able to land All-American returner DeSean Jackson out of USC's backyard in L.A. might make the difference in the Pac-10 this season.
But back to that security. It is one-sided. Tedford has it, not Cal. And the NFL overtures, which the school reacted to in offering the extension, aren't going to go away any time soon.
Both the NFL and a number of colleges can pay Tedford more than Cal could ever offer. His agent, Mike Sullivan, has spouted the usual quality-of-life arguments in favor of his client staying, but still ...
It's Cal, folks, not Florida or Oklahoma or Texas. Barbour can't whip out a checkbook as readily as her peers. And checkbooks are being whipped out regularly these days. The NFL is the reason Charlie Weis got a five-year extension (to 10 years overall) after only seven games at Notre Dame. It's the reason Bob Stoops gets a raise every time he sneezes.
Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban might have soured owners on college coaches. But only for the moment. The league is always about big names and big spenders. Aside from Pete Carroll, Tedford might be the most tempting name around right now (sorry Charlie, you're 0-5). His schemes translate well to the NFL. He is beginning to send a stream of players to the pros.
When will Cal lose its first game this season?
Oct. 20 at UCLA
They won't lose
Dec. 1 at Stanford
Nov. 17 at Washington
Nov. 10 vs. Southern Cal
Total Votes: 8,839
And as long as Daniel Snyder draws breath, common sense is a foreign term.
The point here is true security is addressing the concerns of the naked guy. Get these lawsuits settled, somehow. Get the facilities built. Even in its current state, Memorial Stadium is one of the most beautiful venues in which to watch football.
The fear has to be that Carroll and others are going to get the next DeSean Jackson. All they have to do is point to those cracks in the stadium. It's called negative recruiting.
Or is it all about Tedford, doing one of the best coaching jobs this decade, cracks and all? This isn't Oregon, where a corporate sugar daddy pays for everything. It's bohemian Berkeley, which sometimes is more interested in a new Darjeeling than the football program.
It's amazing that Tedford has gotten the program this far. That mush about being soft -- thanks, Les -- evaporated in the first quarter of the season opener against Tennessee. Cal's Zack Follett popped Vols quarterback Erik Ainge in the back. The ball flew out and linebacker Worrell Williams returned it for a touchdown.
These are mean guys, focused guys, not cuddly little Bears.
"Before every game you envision one play," Follett said. "I hit him as hard as I could."
That's what Cal officials would like to do to the naked guy. They just can't say it out loud. Meanwhile, the only cracks in the program are the ones in the Memorial Stadium cement.