Cal Football: Bud 'Dog' Turner Passes Away at 84
For the last four years that I've been working for Rivals, I've walked through the North Tunnel of California Memorial Stadium hundreds of times. Every time, it has been with a fist bump, a conversation, and a repeated mantra of 'great day to be a bear' from Bud 'Dog' Turner.
Dog was a fixture at Memorial Stadium, to the point where people joked that he came with the stadium when it was originally constructed in 1923. For 50 years, Dog had been around Cal football in some shape or fashion, many of those in tandem with his job as a soil engineer.
Turner passed away Thursday at the age of 84, with an announcement Friday morning that struck a blow to many former and current Cal coaches, players, student workers, administrators, media members, and fans.
Turner's job title was Operations Assistant, a title vague enough to shroud what he did, which varied from security, to greeting players with a fistbump on their way into the stadium, to handing out rosters to fans for open practices, and hassling media. This is how the average conversation between Dog and myself would go as I approached the North Tunnel.
Dog: "What the hell are you doing here?"
Me: "Hell, I don't know. Great day to be a Bear?"
Dog: "Great day to be a Bear."
And so it went with Dog, who could give some lighthearted grief to those he knew, while giving begrudging respect to those who'd give that grief right back.
Turner was a part of the football program since 1970, starting as a part-time field phone operator for the public address announcer, serving as equipment manager at one point, and being a fixture on the Cal sideline through the coaching staffs of Ray Willsey, Mike White, Roger Theder, Joe Kapp, Bruce Snyder, Keith Gilbertson, Steve Mariucci, Tom Holmoe, Jeff Tedford, Sonny Dykes, and Justin Wilcox. White, a childhood friend of Turner, gave him the 'Dog' nickname, after former Chicago Bears linebacker Clyde 'Bulldog' Turner.
Turner served in the military in two stints, from 1955-58 and 1960-64 respectively, a time which he referred to as 'jumping out of perfectly good airplanes,' with 103 military jumps during stints in Germany and Japan.
Turner was a native of the Bay Area, attending his first Cal game in 1947, a 14-7 upset over Navy in front of 82,000 fans, during the first season of Lynn 'Pappy' Waldorf's tenure.
There are four memories over the last few years that stick out to me about Dog:
1. His love-hate relationship with the security personnel working at Memorial Stadium, who helped track down his chair last fall, after it was stolen briefly.
2. He'd call me 'Sir' from time to time, which being in my 20s still doesn't feel right. So I'd call him 'Sir Dog,' and we'd talk about our dogs, as he had adopted a dog from Walnut Creek's Animal Rescue Foundation, near his home.
3. I'd occasionally ask Dog what he thought of some of the recruits coming in for visits or some of the true freshmen that had enrolled early. The last time I remember doing this was prior to Cal's bowl game against Illinois, as freshmen Jaden Casey and Everett Johnson had enrolled early. I asked what he thought, and he was positive about both. With Casey, he said the freshman QB was confident to the point of being cocky (with a few expletives that I'm not going to print), and that he liked that in a quarterback.
4. The 'Great Day to be a Bear' shirt that he was wearing at the picture atop this article was one they had custom-made for him. Multiple people asked where they could get one, and it seemed like a point of pride for him to say that he had the only ones.
Turner's passion for Cal football will be sorely missed when football comes back in Berkeley, with the North Tunnel of Memorial Stadium feeling a little more empty. Turner did say he wanted to go out in grand fashion in a 2013 video feature.
"Like I once told the band, when I go down finally, they're gonna play the fight song as they blow my ashes out of the cannon."
Turner is survived by his wife, Joan, their three children: Kim, Kurt and Kristi, and seven grandchildren.
A quote from Cal head coach Justin Wilcox:
"Dog Turner was a part of Cal football for longer than many of us have been alive. He was such a kind and genuine person. I will miss so many things about him including the welcoming smile he gave to everyone who entered California Memorial Stadium. It’s really hard to imagine going to lunch and not seeing him in the football offices, heading to practice and not getting a first bump from him, or entering the locker room after a game and not seeing him standing there beaming with pride for his team. Dog always said “it’s a great day to be a Bear”. Indeed it is, Dog, but just not as great today. We’ll miss you, pal, but we’ll always remember you and love you. Go Bears."