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November 20, 2012

Former Cal AD Sheds Light on Coaching Search



So Jeff Tedford is gone.

What happens next?

Well, according to former Cal Athletic Director and current Yale Heavyweight Crew Coach Steve Gladstone - the last man to make a football hire in Berkeley - stuff might already be happening.

"In that world, so many people anticipate what's going to happen. To say you start a formal search would be incorrect," Gladstone said. "People call, and they just tell you: 'this looks to be inevitable, this is the person I think would be good for the job'. It happens organically. It's not something where there's a formal announcement."

So who might be calling?

"This comes, primarily, from football people, people with a specific interest in the position."

Or at least, it did back in 2002, the last time Cal made a sideline change, firing Tom Holmoe following a program-worst 1-10 season, and hiring Tedford.

"Bill Walsh was somebody who was promoting various candidates. The alumni made a big move for Bruce Snyder. Essentially people in football. [Yahoo! sports writer and Cal alum] Mike Silver was extremely helpful, because he put us in contact with a lot of people. Lovie Smith was helpful. So it happened that way, and then we travelled, and visited with perspective coaches. I was not going to be rushed. There was a lot of pressure from the press to hire a coach quickly, but I wanted to make sure it was thorough."

Gladstone counts 15 serious candidates who were considered, including three finalists: Tedford, and two others who are currently head coaches, one in the NFL, and one in the Big East.

Gladstone's search committee was four-strong: himself, associate athletic directors Dan Coonan and Mark Stephens, and Cal rugby head coach Jack Clark.

"I don't know if there's a standard protocol. We had a committee. We contacted lots of people in the collegiate and pro ranks that could give us informed information about the people who were out there, and we proceeded from there.

"It just isn't formulaic. For me, it really came down to having been a coach my entire life. I have a pretty good sense of what's real and what's not real, what counts and what doesn't count. Mark played the game, and knew it well. Jack played the game and knew it well. Dan Coonen was a Notre Dame guy. We all trusted our instincts in the process. Ultimately, without giving you too much detail, it was my decision. But I listened to the people on the committee."

Whether or not a search committee orchestrated by current AD Sandy Barbour will look similar, remains to be seen. One thing that is certain though: a long-time collegiate head coach won't be hiring another one, as was the case with Gladstone, whose Cal crew teams medaled at the IRA regatta 11 times in his 12 seasons from 1997-2008 - an unprecedented achievement in the 113-year history of the championship.

"What's challenging in the search, particularly with football: there are so many slick presentations, and an enormous amount of politics involved," he said. "I remember getting a call from the head coach of the New York Giants - he was just raving about this guy, one of his coordinators. Fortunately, I had a friend in the New York Giants organization and it turns out, the head coach had just fired this guy. I guess he was going to do him a favor. The politics, how that works, it can be pretty scratchy. It's best if you can have ex-players, people who have played for these people, knowledgable and bright people, giving you opinions on who to pursue and who not to pursue. Then you have to trust your own thoughts and feelings."

In the end, those thoughts and feelings lead Gladstone to Tedford.

"I hired him because I thought, my sense, was that he was going to be successful. That was my own sense of what makes a coach work. Being a coach, I have a pretty good feel for that. Obviously I thought Jeff was the guy. His opening rounds, his first six years, they certainly were remarkable in the history of Cal football.

"I was somewhat amused at the time when there was this feeling in the Cal community, that one really couldn't have successful football at Cal. And you'd ask them why, and they'd say 'academics', and that's just not accurate. And then, you know, Jeff had some very, very good years and that myth was dispelled.

"I remember, several years ago, at Cal, my third year, [our crew team] won it all, won the national championship, set a course record, and there was this friend of mine who came by the house, we were talking, and he said 'you really set yourself up now'. And I say 'What do you mean?', and he says 'This is what people are going to expect' and I say 'Well, yeah, we're not going to hide from that. Better that than mediocrity.' Jeff set a standard - that comes with success."

As the search for a new head man begins, one thing that shouldn't make a difference in Gladstone's mind: who an incoming coach has previously coached for - like in the case of former USC head man Pete Carroll or Bears turncoat-cum-Washington assistant Tosh Lupoi, both of whom have had their names tossed around as potential candidates.

"That would be irrelevant to me. To me, you're hiring the best person available because you want the student athletes to be successful. There are a lot of great life lessons when you're part of a viable team, and so you have to play it absolutely dead on straight. It can't be a political move, it has to be a person in your opinion who'll serve the program, and the student athletes, the best."

And what about someone like Boise State's Chris Petersen, another name that has made the rounds: do his healthy ties to the Bay Area (he grew up in NorCal, went to Sacramento City College and UC Davis, and makes frequent trips to Yuba City to visit his father) come into play?

"Somebody who's familiar with the territory, from a recruiting standpoint, that could factor into a decision," Gladstone said. "It wouldn't be for sentimental reasons and clearly, it's not going to be something that dictates the successful candidate, but it's something that plays in the decision."

So taking everything into account, are there 15 interested coaches now that the position becomes available, or way more than that?

"I would summarize it by saying, the Cal job would be incredibly desirable. Here are the barriers that were broken, and I'm not patting myself on the back, but the thought of paying a football coach at Cal a million dollars a year, or over, people just thought there was no conceivable way. And if you don't, you're not going to get a top flight guy, or you're not going to be able to pay him enough. Thanks to Chancellor [Robert] Berdahl, we broke that barrier. We became competitive in terms of salary with the top programs in the conference. Then you look at facilities, they're no longer an issue, and if there's a more desirable place to live than the Bay Area, let me know where it is. And then there's just a great talent pool locally."

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