In my years of running this site, I can't recall a time I've dreaded writing a post. And mind you, we've all seen some rough times over the past few years.
This sense of uneasiness then, is rooted in the whirlwind of events over the past few days that have led to some of the greatest questions of stability and loyalty seen in Cal Football in who knows how long.
Most questions can be summarized though, in the ever so compendiary question of, "What the hell just happened?"
There are really three stories here: the more painful endeavor of considering the ramifications and the circumstances of Lupoi's departure, the seemingly less farcical move of Kiesau, and the confusion that is Cal football's future. I'll divide the post into two parts, touching upon Cal's future in a later post.
If you have at all been following Cal football during the offseason, which some of us obsessively do, you'll know that for starters, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi has abruptly left the Bears to take on the same position as well as the role of recruiting coordinator at the University of Washington. Other than taking on the recruiting coordinator role, the move is considered a lateral with the very lucrative distinction of a pay raise that is reported to be $500,000 and to include a boat.
That's well more than $300,000 more than what Lupoi was being paid for the same position at Cal. And boy, you can bet Tedford's slapping someone next to him right now exclaiming, "A boat! C'mon, why didn't you think of a boat!"
To say that Lupoi was integral to Cal's program would be a vast understatement. Lupoi has been largely responsible for Cal's recent recruiting success, hauling in one prized recruit after another, earning Rival.com's Recruiter of the Year Award. His efforts this year had pundits seriously considering him for second honor in three years. It would be no exaggeration to say Tosh Lupoi was quite possibly the best recruiter in the nation. The guy bled blue and gold, passionately arguing the virtues of Cal to his recruits, and the high schoolers believed it. They had no reason not to.
He was also no slouch of a coach either. Although his effect as a coach is a little more difficult to measure, it is undeniable that the defensive line is in every way shape and form in a better place than it was four years ago with former D-Line coach Ken Delgado at the helm.
The guy could coach, the guy could talk a dog off a meat wagon, and had the youthful energy, passion, and work ethic that had Cal fans thinking "defensive coordinator in waiting...no, head coach in waiting!"
And then things changed. And in purportedly bizarre fashion.
Neither the ramifications or the circumstances of Lupoi's departure is anything but typical here. Cal had lost assistant coaches before. Not like this though. And not anyone like Tosh Lupoi.
I can't come close to substantiating the rumors, but if anything close to the accounts of what occurred is true, things look pretty shady for the former Golden boy. One of the more concise reports as provided by the Bear Insider:
Tosh was offered a job at Wash and he came to JT with the "my heart is here speech". JT went and fought for Tosh to get the offer matched. JT and Tosh have a meeting where JT tells Tosh how much he wants to keep him, how he is an integral part of what they are doing, etc. He says that he went and got the offer matched and that he wanted him to stay, but that he won't/can't get into a bidding war for Tosh and that he (JT) needs his (Tosh's) word that this is done and that he (Tosh) isn't going anywhere. Tosh assures JT this is over. Tosh breaks his word, continues talking to UW and gets another offer which he doesn't present to JT, as he has already been told and committed to no bidding war.
JT didn't find out Tosh was gone (by voicemail) until he got off the plane for a recruiting trip Tosh was supposed to meet JT on. They were supposed to meet yesterday to recruit and Tosh didn't show.
Combine that with the fact that Tosh is breaking the unwritten coaches code of only recruiting for one school and he is dead to me and I suspect Cal and JT as well. If you are recruiting and switch schools, you stop recruiting those guys... pass them off to another on staff.
Truly despicable. In my estimation, JT has committed a multitude of sins, but this fiasco isn't on him. No one looks rosy in this, but this is Tosh's doing.
If true, Tosh's departure is about as unethical as you could possibly paint it. It's one thing to leave. I don't blame Lupoi for taking the money for one second. Sure I would have hoped his loyalty to the school, and his belief in the program's future (one that he was instrumental in building) would have outweighed his financial goals, but I'd be a liar if I said I wouldn't strongly consider taking the pay raise. Take care of one's family. Absolutely. Coaching turnover happens. No shame in that.
But Tosh didn't just leave. He broke just about every rule of edict in his departure. He didn't tell his boss face to face. Lupoi instead left a voice message for Tedford during a recruiting trip that he was supposed to be on.
He didn't tell his players, the same ones he had recruited, coached and affirmed to time and time again that he'd be there. No one except Steve Sarkisian and Todd Graham thinks that's ok.
But he had time to conveniently tell a few prized recruits. And possibly before he even took the Washington job which could in itself be a violation, but in the very least is incredibly unprofessional. As Avinash at CGB reminds us, you don't recruit the same players for two different schools during the same recruiting cycle. You just don't. It puts you in the dreaded Lane Kiffin category of coaches and recruiters.
So all this is bad. Nothing changes the fact that I greatly appreciat Lupoi for his efforts and contributions both on and off the field. Cal football is in a place it likely would not have been if not for Lupoi's dedication.
But if (and at this point, it still is an "if") his departure is really how it went down, you couldn't pay me enough to go from appreciating Lupoi's contributions to respecting him.
The story itself isn't a big deal. Eric Kiesau has accepted the the role of offensive coordinator for Washington. Everyone and their mother knew Kiesau wanted another shot at being an offensive coordinator, after having had that role at Colorado (insert Buffaloes offense cheap shot here).
There was no way he was going to be satisfied with being the co-offensive coordinator in the long run. It was only a matter of time then, and it's a completely sensible decision.
The story behind the story however is the decision for Steve Sarkisian to go after Kiesau, and Kiesau's decision to go to Washington of all places and of all times. The timing is what is questionable and one has to wonder how far back the plan was sprung to have both Kiesau and Lupoi leave Berkeley for Seattle. Everything about it seems sketchy.
On top of potential shadiness which at this point, which let's be honest, may or may not even be there, the coaching moves leave Cal at a decided disadvantage to the Huskies from a strategic and personnel standpoint. At this juncture, Washington now has two of our previous coaches, both who have an incredibly deep understanding of the innerworkings of our offense and defense.
Clancy Pendergast's defense isn't bound to change dramatically at this point, and no change in the role of co-offensive coordinator at Cal will lead to anything drastic in terms of the offensive scheme as well. That's one heck of an advantage for the Huskies.
Read on here, for my thoughts on what this means for most involved.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Posted by Bear with Fangs at 10:57 AM