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Good-bye Mike

Good-bye Mike Dunbar, we didn’t know you very well. Of course, you weren’t around very long, only a year.

For Cal football, it probably will be best.

The first day I interviewed Mike Dunbar, I found him to be a very driven, very strong-minded individual. A guy with strong beliefs, a leader, a guy who had been a head coach and probably wouldn’t mind being on again.

I wondered at the time how Dunbar would co-exist with Jeff Tedford, who has all those same qualities. We now know.

Say what you want about George Cortez, the guy didn’t mind toiling in the background. Dunbar was the complete opposite, a guy who had pride in his spread system and wanted to use it.

He will now get that chance at Minnesota, and I would imagine he will be quite successful. The guy is very good at what he does. However, when your offensive philosophy doesn’t coincide with your head coach’s, a guy who probably is considered one of the top five coaches in all of college football, then you are going to struggle.

I talked to Mike Dunbar at the end of last season and he said he was looking forward to 2007 in Berkeley. I called him last week, and he wouldn’t return phone calls. I knew something was in the works. More phone calls this week and no return call. It was obvious that Dunbar was headed to another location.
Contrary to some speculation, Tedford said he didn’t take over play calling in the Holiday Bowl. He said Dunbar called all but a few plays. I asked coach Tedford if he would call more plays in the future. He said he would address that later.

My bet is that he finds another hands-on, quarterbacks type of coach, a guy who loves working on technical stuff with the kids and doesn’t care to veer from Tedford’s plan for Saturday. Cortez used to call the plays, but you always knew that Tedford had written the script.

I would imagine that it will be that way in the future. For Cal, that’s good stuff.

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he’s staying

If you look around college football, you see very few Joe Paternos or Bobby Bowdens. In an era where major donors get nervous at the sight of a losing football season, and where administrators are dependent on them to keep the wheels turning, the coaching turnstiles swing in rapid fashion. Nobody knows this better than the coaches, who are reluctant to stick around too long in one place. The state of the game today is more about who is going to make the first move — the coach to bolt or the program to send him to the scrap heap.

The norm today is Dennis Erickson, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saben. Sign a deal and bolt. Remember Steve Mariucci, who received his first head coaching job from Cal? One year and done.

And can you blame them? Look at Alabama, team that by the way called to see in Jeff Tedford would be interested in its job (he wasn’t). Mike Shula has a .500 year and he is toast. He took them to a Cotton Bowl win a year earlier and stuck out probation. Is that the kind of employer you would want?

There are very few Tedfords and Greg Schianos, guys who appear more interested in building a home than a program. Rutgers stuck with Schiano through some lean times, so when Miami came calling, he decided to stick with them.

Four years ago, it was doubtful that Jeff Tedford would stick around too long in Berkeley. The university was not exactly football friendly at the time and his Memorial Stadium office wasn’t exactly a palace. Should air conditioning be part of a coach’s contract?

But Tedford stuck and built the program. Could anyone blame him for exiting stage door left and taking a job with all the trimmings in the NFL? Nah. To the victor goes the spoils.

He has decided to stay, for better or for worse. He wants to buck the trend where fans and administrators simply grow tired of somebody after they have been around for 10 years. He doesn’t seem to mind that half his fans walked away from a fifth consecutive win over Stanford in zombie-like fashion, that there was some complaints this season that he had grown conservative, that Cal should have been in the Rose Bowl.

“The fans just want us to win every game,” he told me on Tuesday. “But nobody wants to do that more than we do.”

If you have the pleasure of knowing coach Tedford, you know that nothing bothers him more than losing. It’s borderline sick, but it’s what drives him to be amazing at what he does. It’s the kind of focus that most of us don’t want or enjoy. We know it’s not healthy.

But does anyone really care about a coach’s health on game day?

Was it a surprise to me that he didn’t seriously consider a $4 to $5 million, five-year offer to coach in the NFL? No, it really wasn’t. The guy is not a Porsche kind of guy. He drives your grandfather’s Cadillac. He doesn’t need the gold chain or the Island retreat on Bora Bora (he would go crazy there anyway). His pay is respect. If Cal gives it to him, then the two will get along fine.

So far, it’s been a great relationship, a lasting one.

It’s rare.