Jeff Tedfords epitaph at Cal is one that will look a lot better in a few years:
He was a good guy, he did a lot for the program, and he was the reason the facilities are now more quality and less quaint. He was a true servant of the University.
But because it is an epitaph, it ends badly. Sort of this way:
He broke out too fast, got peoples hopes all ginned up, and then hit the wall in Year Eight. And well, its hard world out there.
Tedford took the black spot Sunday morning, less than a day after his team closed out its miserable 2012 season with a mega-miserable 62-14 loss at Oregon State. The program that had given the world Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and any number of other quality professionals was now passed by and looking up at every Pacific 12 Conference school save Colorado and Washington State.
And it was as inevitable as it was sad, because thats how it works when pragmatism trumps sentimentality, and gratitude for services rendered can no longer be justified.
Tedford was stoic through it all, avoiding credit while making sure that his contract reflected the level of his deeds. Indeed, the contract might have shielded him from taking the pipe a year earlier. As it was, he ended with the longest tenure in Cal history, 82-57 with eight bowl appearances. His career stands on its own.
But college football moves faster and faster, and the building he helped juice has its own demands. Seats must be filled, suites must be bought, and cash generated. Cal built the place on the come, assuming the sellouts Tedford once routinely generated would continue.
The problem, though, was that the sellouts stopped when (a) the games were moved to San Francisco for construction reasons and (b) the results of the last two years chased people away. And Cals years of frantic deficit spending and a growing disenchantment of Cals quarterback-less offense made Tedfords unpleasant meeting with Sandy Barbour Sunday a fait accompli.
What does she do now? Well, the obvious names leap up -- Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State, Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech, Gary Anderson at Utah State, Chris Peterson at Boise State, and the usual raft of assistants and eager beavers looking for the breakout job Tedford once received.
And in truth, the job is less daunting than the one Tedford took on, but not by much. Stanford is a national elbow-thrower. UCLA is back after the wilderness of Rick Neuheisel. USC is, well, will be USC again, once it has paid its price for dropping trou at the NCAA. Washington is moving again, and Oregon is the center of the conference solar system.
Thus, Cal has much to do in an increasingly competitive world, while carrying a debt load that would make Albania cry. Barbour cant be wrong here without being the next one to go. She needs Ben Braun-for-Mike Montgomery 2.0, and nothing less will do.
Tedford built the program Cal should be, and then it came undone. Its the circle of athletic life. Now comes the fun part -- seeing if the man who replaces Tedford can replicate Tedford.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com