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May 16, 2011SAN FRANCISCO -- Set in the locker room of the San Francisco 49ers, California and Fresno State held court in front of reporters to tout what is being billed as the 'TicketCity Battle By the Bay.' The 'Battle' will be held Sept. 3, 2011, at Candlestick Park, pitting Bears head coach Jeff Tedford against his alma mater and former boss Pat Hill.
What would normally be considered a preseason matchup of two California teams is instead being organized much like a postseason bowl game would be...without the 'bowl' word in the title.
Longtime Cal radio personality, Joe Starkey, made the introductions and gave a rundown of some of the background and history. Here are some of them:
-- To anyone's knowledge, this will be the first regular-season college football game held at Candlestick Park.
-- The season-opener for both teams is just the third meeting between the two with Cal losing both previous contests, 25-24 at Memorial Stadium Sept. 9, 1995, and 17-3 in Fresno on Sept. 23, 2000.
-- Tedford was Hill's assistant the first season after Hill took over at Fresno State.
-- Tedford, who played quarterback for the Bulldogs, still holds many of the quarterback records.
-- Ryan Longwell missed a 56-yard field goal in the '95 loss and after playing for Steve Mariucci for a season with the Golden Bears, was cut by the same coach from the 49ers the following season. Longwell went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and is now with the Minnesota Vikings.
-- The 17-3 loss by Cal featured David Carr for the Bulldogs and Kyle Boller for the Golden Bears -- both NFL first-round picks.
Fresno State Athletic Director Thomas Boeh took the podium first to thank everyone involved with the game, including Tedford and Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.
"These are two great football programs that have great traditions," said Boeh.
The theme of Boeh's comments was primarily financial, which, coming from a non-BCS school A.D. made a lot of sense due to the obvious financial windfall Fresno State will get from the game.
"I think that it is entirely fitting," began Boeh. "We are -- no secret that we're in a state that is in economic crisis and I think it's terrific that two public institutions come together to create commerce where a vast majority of the money stays right here in the state of California which is good for these institutions, for the public education in the state of California and our state in general.
"We think it's great for our college football, we think it's great for California football, and therefore quite frankly, regardless of what happens here this Labor Day weekend, we hope that we have a chance to do this again."
Being able to make this a routine matchup has nothing to do with the coaches involved. Hill later on admitted that he and Tedford had very little say in picking this game.
Barbour shed some light on what it took to put the game together in giving her thanks.
"I want to thank the WFI [Washington Football Inc.] and Russ Pots and all the energy that's gone into this as well as the city, and former mayor, now Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, for his part in putting this together, making it possible, San Francisco Parks and Recreation, obviously Candlestick, and the 49ers."
With all of those entities involved, just getting the game scheduled appears to have been a monumental task.
No other non-BCS school has more wins over BCS schools than Fresno State does with Hill at the helm. Sophomore quarterback Derek Carr and sophomore linebacker Travis Brown accompanied Hill to the press conference.
If you're wondering if Carr is related to former Bulldog great and current 49ers backup David Carr, the answer is yes. Tedford later recounted 'throwing Nerf balls around,' after practices where he'd been coaching the elder at Fresno State.
Hill's most telling comment about the younger Carr came in the Q&A period where he told reporters, "I've said this to other people. Right now, my feelings about Derek, I have no problem. I'd rather go to war with Derek as my guy than anybody else."
Tedford also has memories of a young Brown, who is the younger son of the late Fresno State defensive coordinator, Dan Brown.
Hill felt it necessary to explain the big green 'V' that sits on the back of the Bulldogs helmet.
"We talked earlier about our fans," said Hill. "We have passionate fans in the [central] valley and I think one of the things that's really helped us over the years was when we installed this 15 years ago, my first year at Fresno State with the green 'V' on the helmet representing the agricultural riches of the San Joaquin Valley."
Hill finished off his comments saying, "I expect big things out of our team as they prepare for a very, very tough 2011 season."
With two big-time football coaches being friends off the field, you'd expect that when the two of them get together, it would be X's and O's all day long. It's not that way.
"We don't talk too much about football," said Hill as he turned and smiled at a nodding Tedford.
Both coaches were complimentary of each other, as you'd expect.
"I had the opportunity to work with Pat one year, his first year at Fresno State," said Tedford. "He does everything the right way, really has a great passion for the program at Fresno State, and for its players. I admire Pat and his family a lot."
Tedford brought just one player to the press conference, senior safety Sean Cattouse. Cattouse is graduating this weekend with a degree in Human Welfare.
After congratulating Cattouse on his accomplishment, Tedford took the opportunity to mention, "That's a very important part of it at Cal, to make sure that we're able to take education very seriously, and for them to leave with their degree."
Or an NFL contract? Hey, a job is a job in this economy.
"Excited about this game," said Tedford. "I think it's gonna' be for the fans. I know and have a great deal of respect for the Fresno State program and their fans, the Red Wave, and what they represent. I know that they will be here in full force, and I'm sure our fans will be too."
With Tedford's ties to the Bulldogs, the obvious question was asked first: Has he thought about going up against the school where he got his start?
"Well, I really haven't thought about that much," said Tedford. "It's been a long time. I had great days at Fresno State. No question about it. Both as a player, obviously got my degree from there, and then my coaching experience there and all the great relationships that I built over the years in the valley with the people there."
After a few more words on the job that Hill has done with the Bulldogs, Tedford made sure to turn the conversation back to Cal.
"I love Fresno, love the people and the associations I've had there, but obviously my first and foremost thought and where my passion is, I bleed blue and gold now," continued Tedford.
"Going back to the day of my first week at Cal when someone raised there hand and said, 'Do you bleed blue and gold?' And I said, 'I've been here a week. Not quite yet.' But now we're going on our 10th season, so I can say that."
And he said it in the locker room of the Red and Gold 49ers.