Keenan Allen has heard the chatter, that time may be running out for University of California football coach Jeff Tedford.
“The guy is the winningest coach in school history,” Cal’s star receiver said. “It is definitely not fair.”
Yet, Tedford may reach a watershed moment when his team plays UCLA on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif. The Golden Bears (1-4 overall, 0-2 Pacific-12 Conference) are off to the worst start in Tedford’s 11 seasons.
He’s under contract through 2015 at $2.3 million per season. It would cost nearly $7 million to buy him out, but there have been reports in the San Francisco Bay Area that it could happen.
“I know things are out there, but I don’t read it or get into it (with the team),” Tedford said. “We’re definitely not where we want to be, but we’re not sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. We’re going to attack, work hard and stick together.”
Nevada, Ohio State and USC are among Cal’s losses this season. Nevada is 4-1, Ohio State is ranked 12th and USC is ranked 13th.
“No one is happy,” Tedford said of the team. “It’s a tough time. We’ve been in every game.”
Tedford has been at Cal for a decade, and he is credited with turning around a long-suffering program. Cal had not had a winning season in eight years when Tedford took over in 2002, but the coach produced winners in his first eight consecutive seasons. Included was a conference co-championship in 2006, something the Bears had not accomplished since they shared a title with UCLA in 1975.
Tedford also had the Bears on the verge of playing in the Rose Bowl in 2004, when USC went to the national title game. However, Texas coach Mack Brown out-lobbied Tedford and the Longhorns went to the New Year’s Day game and the Bears lost to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
“We really tried to create confidence and self-esteem,” Tedford said. “Those were pretty low when we got here.”
Tedford pushed hard for improved facilities, including renovation of Memorial Stadium, which was completed this year.
But now the coach who has a 79-48 record and eight bowl games on his résumé is on the hot seat, and keeping his job status from being a distraction is becoming more and more of a challenge.
“The players do live in it and around it,” Tedford said. “It’s no different than my wife when she goes to the grocery store or cleaners. Players are out there in the public. It’s something we talk about. That, hey, there is going to be some negative talk, but we can’t let it creep in here.”
Michael Bennett, No. 5 Georgia’s leading receiver, tore up his right knee on the last play of practice Tuesday and is out for the season. Bennett, a third-year sophomore who leads the Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns, injured his ACL and will have reconstructive surgery. … Former Arkansas linebacker Bret Harris, 23, has been arrested by university police for allegedly threatening to kill the school’s head athletic trainer, Matt Summers, on his Twitter account. Harris, who played for the Razorbacks from 2007 through last season, is charged with a felony count of terroristic threatening. … No. 13 USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) plays Utah (2-2, 0-1) in Salt Lake City for the first time in 95 years today (6 p.m., ESPN). Both teams are coming off byes.