Cal Football - Where Do We Go?
I'll be the first to admit I was shellshocked by the news, first of Lupoi's abrupt exit and Kiesau's ensuing departure.
And the events didn't hurt as much as envoke questions of confusion and quite honestly, anger.
But honestly, I think we're going to be okay. I'm likely a few months a way from stating this with utter conviction, but I really do think Cal fans have reason to believe we'll be alright.
A few things can be gleaned here.
First off, Tedford and the administration have likely learned a lot, though in a painful way. While most of my anger lies in the circumstances of Lupoi's departure, I do think it's not unfair to think Tedford and Sandy Barbour shoulder some responsibility. Did Tedford realize what he had with Lupoi and do all he could do make it as financially worthwhile as possible for Lupoi to stay. Did he open up all reasonable careers path for Lupoi at Cal? Did he know that he had one of the hottest coaching commodities in the country on staff and did he know he'd have to fight tooth and nail for his services? Was there ever a moment that Lupoi felt reasonably undervalued with the Bears? And let's not forget that Injury Gate raises a few eyebrows.
Again, the distinction is not just how much Tedford and Barbour could pay Lupoi. They can't compete with the ludicrous salary Washington is paying Lupoi, and I'm pretty sure most boats in the SF Bay suck. But it's not just about the money. It's about the sense of being valued and assurance that there is a path to career development. Surely any working man or woman can understand that.
It certainly forces Tedford to take a painful look at his staff as well as his relationship with them. It can always become an issue, and Tedford can always look back at this fiasco of a situation and wonder what if. And hopefully, it makes him a better coach.
Secondly, in terms of the recruiting fall out, Cal has gone from likely having a Top 5 class (its best ever), to be lucky to have a Top 15. The Bears have already lost 5 star DT Ellis McCarthy and are likely to lose a few others. I'm thinking two or three.
The good news isn't too bright here, but it is worth noting. First off, the biggest hit in this recruiting class will be at the defensive line position, an area where the Bears are loaded. This doesn't take away from the fact that the Bears were on the verge of landing three or four 5 star prospects, each who could have been early impact players. However, knowing that the Bears entire two deep is comprised of young redshirt freshmen and sophomores, each who were very prized recruits in their own right does provide some solace. If the hits had taken place all along the secondary, than I'd be far more scared. And this class will still be very solid.
Also, and this might be the more important point, whoever does end up sticking with the Bears through signing day will affirm their commitment to Cal and not to the dream of playing for a particular coach. I'll touch upon this in coming months, but even Cal's best recruiting classes has fallen victim to recruits who chose Cal for all the wrong reasons, or who were too immature to understand what it meant to commit to a school.
This is far from saying, "Good riddance" to those who spurn the Bears at this juncture. Instead, I almost masochistically welcome the opportunity for Cal's recruits to affirm why they pledged to be Bears, for a world class education, a true sense of community, as solid of a shot as any to play in the pros, and a chance to be build truly something special in Berkeley. Put simply, the kids who want to be here, will be here for the right reasons.
Finally, anyone envying the coaching situation up in Washington doesn't have a long term perspective here. Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi aren't staying at Washington forever. I'd be absolutely shocked if they're still in Seattle in four years in fact. Wilcox is going to get a shot at being a head coach somewhere very soon (especially if Washington's defense shows anything close to a pulse this year), and Lupoi will snatch up a defensive coordinator role, likely with Wilcox soon thereafter.
The Huskies will enjoy some success due to some really solid assistant coaches, and will get some nice classes, but it's not going to last.
And on Tosh Lupoi's future, we know he can flat out recruit. We've established that. And he'll continue to succeed. But you can sure as heck bet that his credibility has taken a major hit. I'd love to be there when a parent who has caught wind of all this commotion has to look him in the eyes and ask him, "How do I know for sure you're not going to just leave in a year?" Because after this, no one does.
And suddenly, Washington somehow became that much easier to hate. I'm just confused as to who exactly I should be directing my hatred towards.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Cal Football - Where Do We Go?
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.
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Thursday, January 5, 2012
Hey all, back from another break and I'll be hitting up a couple of topics including a yearly review for the team, conference, and the Holiday Bowl recap if I'm up to it.
Just wanted to touch on the Cal football schedule that was just released yesterday. Take a look.
2012 Cal Football Schedule
Sat Sept. 1 Nevada
Sat Sept. 8 Southern Utah
Sat Sept. 15 at Ohio State
Sat Sept. 22 at USC
Sat Sept. 29 Arizona State
Sat Oct. 6 UCLA
Sat Oct. 13 at Washington State
Sat Oct. 20 Stanford
Sat Oct. 27 at Utah
Fri Nov. 2 Washington
Sat Nov. 10 Oregon
Sat Nov. 17 at Oregon State
Home games (in bold) at Memorial Stadium
After a quick glance, you might be thinking what I'm thinking: Next year's schedule...well, it blows.
The schedule isn't tough in a "Man we've got a lot of good, tough teams lined" sort of way. It's more tough in a "it seems to want to do everything humanly possible to stack the deck against us" sort of way.
And quite frankly, a few aspects are just flat out wrong. Let's take a look.
1. No Bye Week
That's right. The Bears play twelve straight games without any bye week. To my understanding, they're the only team in the conference to have that misfortune. On top of that, the Bears have a short week as they have to bounce back from playing at Utah on October 27th, before playing Washington the following Friday.
So where did Cal's bye week go? At the very end of the season, so technically the Bears would be the only team with the luxury of having a bye before the Pac-12 conference title game should they earn the honor. And if the Bears do somehow make the conference title game next year, then I will gladly eat crow and enjoy the one week break. Otherwise, I shudder at the idea of playing twelve straight games without a single week to recover mentally and physically. That's brutal.
Moreover, I fully anticipate the Bears being bowl eligible next year. That would be anywhere from a four to ghastly six week reprieve between their last game and their bowl game. I don't care which team is playing, that's a long break that could fully extinguish whatever chemistry the team is feeling to end the season.
2. Tough Opening Road Stretch
I'm a little less critical of this one because I recognize that blocks of tough game stretches happen. Most of it out of a team or the athletic department's control. But take a look at weeks 3 and 4 for the Bears.
That's right, OSU and USC. It's simply rough going to have to make trips out to one of the toughest venues in the conference at the Horseshoe and then follow it up with a trip to the Coliseum to face a likely Top 5 USC team.
It's one of the more challenging back-to-back road tests for the Bears I've seen in a while.
3. No Arizona or Colorado
I understand there's a natural flow to the 9 team rotation that each conference team faces in a 12 person league.
But not facing the two bottom conference dwellers certainly makes the Bears' conference slate far more challenging. The Bears didn't face Arizona last year as well, while Colorado was counted as a non-conference game due to a previous home and home commitment between the two teams.
It just makes it a bit more absurd that teams may spout "better" conference records despite not having to face the top conference teams. Take Utah last year for example. They didn't have to face Oregon or Stanford (two of the conference's best) while getting to play both Arizona and Colorado (losing to the latter). Yet, they still hosted a similar 4-5 conference record as the Bears.
Granted the Bears will benefit from future years, but again, this certainly makes next year's conference lineup more challenging.
4. Oregon State for our season finale
Simple fact: Never play the Beavers late in the season. Never.
5. Big Game in...October?!
I had heard whispers that the Big Game might be moved in order to accommodate some hub bub with the new conference alignment. But I didn't think the conference would show such utter disregard for conference history by moving one of college football's oldest rivalries to the middle of the season. It was bad enough when it was moved from the end of the regular season.
This? This is just a travesty.
AD Sandy Barbour released this statement yesterday:
"As a conference, we are undertaking many tremendous initiatives, most of which will result in positive contributions and significant improvement to the experience of our student-athletes, as well as benefit our fan communities. Undoubtedly, one of the results is the addition of significant complexities to the scheduling process. I am very disappointed that these challenges have resulted in the moving of our rivalry game with Stanford - one of the longest standing traditions in all of college football - away from its proper place and time in the rhythm of the football season. I believe that college football is unique, in large part, because of traditions like the Big Game, and we believe that those traditions should be carefully protected.
"Although Cal and Stanford were opposed to the schedule that was ultimately adopted because of the placement of the Big Game, we remain a full participant in the conference's decision-making and governance process, working to ensure that our interests are fully considered. We at Cal are dedicated to assisting the Pac-12 in finding ways for future rivalry games for all conference schools to be protected. If that is deemed impossible given all the constraints, then we will be insistent that the burden is shared equitably across all institutions, so that no one school or pair of schools bears this burden alone."
The statement basically states that "Yes, we got F*ed over, but are willing to go along with it to not appear like whiny biatches to the conference." But the ending is key in that it recognizes the need for the "burden is shared equitably across all institutions."
Why that phrase? Because Cal and Stanford are the only schools to have to move their rivalry game. And I don't buy that retaining the Big Game in its rightful place as the season finale was deemed impossible given all restraints. Baloney. You've got smart people working for you Commissioner Scott. Figure it out.
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