SAN FRANCISCO -- When asked on Wednesday what the meaning of taking over the California football team's all-time wins crown with his next victory, head coach Jeff Tedford smiled and said, humbly, "All it says is that I've outlasted the rest of them."
Of the 32 men who have guided the Bears since 1886, only Andy Smith, Leonard B. "Stub" Allison and Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf have coached for as many years as Tedford, but on Saturday, Cal's current skipper overtook all of them for the program's career wins record.
"I didn't think that far ahead, really," Tedford said, when asked if he had any illusions of achieving the milestone when he first took the job. "It was just about one year at a time, one game at a time, and it's gone by quickly. I really didn't think about it until this week. I started getting asked a lot of questions about it, and then, you reflect about way back when, our first year here, and the guys over the years and the players over the years -- the players and coaches who have been a part of this -- and it makes you go back and think about the Kyle Boeller's and the Nnamdi Asomugha's and that whole first team that had the best turn-around in college football that year. There are so many guys -- not just the star players, but the players who, each and every player over the last 10 years who has been on this football team -- who have helped us prepare. The scout team guys, all those guys, they're the reason for it.
"When you reflect back on that, I mean, like I said, I really haven't thought about it all that much, and then, this week, when we started getting asked questions about it, I couldn't have told you it was 75. I just kind of knew that it was getting close, but I really never paid much attention to it. When I started getting asked, I started thinking about all those players back in the first year, and all the coaches and everyone, not just the star players, but everyone; every player, every coach, every GA, every equipment manager, everyone who has had anything to do with our program is a part of this and deserves a part of this."
After dismissing the mark for most of the week, Tedford choked up, his voice cracking, as he addressed the media after the 63-12 win.
"It was very nice, um," said Tedford, before glancing downward at the final stats in front of him, holding back a wave of emotion. "It has a lot to do with all the players and coaches over the last nine years and three games, so that's who really deserves the credit -- all the players who play the game."
Following the game, Tedford was the victim of an ice shower, courtesy of safety Sean Cattouse, punter Bryan Anger, defensive end Ernest Owusu and tight end Anthony Miller.
"I was trying to get away from that," Tedford laughed. "But, they trapped me."
Cattouse and his compatriots weren't about to let Tedford escape.
"I don't know if everyone was aware, because coach Tedford didn't speak on his record-setting if we won this game, so a few guys were aware, and it was just something that we said, 'We got to get him,' so it was something we were all proud to be a part of," Cattouse said. "It was me, Banger, Anthony Miller and Owusu, we got that going.
"I saw that he was trying to keep composed on the field and everything, but I'm a little older. I can tell that he was pretty happy about it, standing with his family and everything. I was happy for him, just proud to be a part of it."
Last week's win over Colorado lifted Tedford over James Schaeffer, who went 73-16-8 from 1909 to 1915 for second-place on the all-time list, with Smith the only one left to surpass.
Smith coached from 1916-25, and went 74-16-7 for a remarkable .799 winning percentage, second-highest among Cal coaches behind only Garrett Cochran, who guided the Bears to a 15-1-3 mark from 1898-1899.
During his tenure in Berkeley, Smith went undefeated from 1920 through 1924, running off a 49-game unbeaten streak which included the first two games of the 1925 season. Over that span, Smith went 46-0-3, earning four straight Pacific Coast Conference titles (all shared) and two Rose Bowl berths. Smith notched Cal's first win in the Granddaddy of 'Em All on New Year's Day 1921, defeating Ohio State 28-0 in Pasadena. En route to that win, Smith's teams surrendered just 14 points in nine games, while scoring 510.
"He won a lot of games," Tedford said. "He won a lot of games, I see his picture on the wall in there. We have a wall where we see his picture and his teams. I think they were undefeated for a couple of years, and their defense only gave up some unbelievable point total for the season. They out-scored their opponents, it was a lot to a little."
One of the men Tedford passed on his way to assailing Smith's win record was the venerable Waldorf, who won three straight Pacific Coast Conference titles from 1948-50, taking the Bears to three straight Rose Bowls.
"I've had a lot of stuff given to me where you read about Andy Smith and those teams and the Wonder Years and obviously, Pappy, it's been more about Pappy than anything," Tedford said earlier in the week. "There are a lot of Pappy's Boys that are still around. Every year, I go and speak to Pappy's Boys, which I think is one of the most special things I've ever seen. Typically, when you're on a football team, you always say, 'Oh, we're going to stay close for the rest of our lives,' and things like that, and it never happens, it really never happens. Everyone goes their own direction and things. But, for Pappy's Boys to stay together like they have over the years is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. It really says a lot about that group.
"There's a couple people that you stay close with, but for the whole team like that to come back and have such great representation every year, and they come from far and wide. They come from all over the country, and they have a dinner every year, and it's just really phenomenal to see. It's amazing. They had something there, such a bond, that for them to continue to come back, it means enough to them to put it on the calendar every year, no matter what's going on, to get back here. That'd be great, one day. I hope [my players] all stay close and continue the relationship. You make great memories through college football. It's one of the best times of your life. I think if they stayed in touch over the years, that'd be awesome."
Pappy's Boys went 67-32-4 during Waldorf's tenure from 1947 to 1956, with the majority of their losses coming from 1953 to 1956, when Cal went 14-23-3.
As time has gone by, Tedford has incorporated more and more of his former players into team activities, reminding his current crew of the legacy that his teams of the past have established, with eight straight winning seasons, seven straight bowl games and five bowl wins.
"We're actually making a bigger, making that more of a priority, trying to reach out to all those guys and make sure that they're staying close," Tedford said. "We've come kind of full circle. Typically when guys leave, you don't see them for a few years because they're out trying to do their thing, and now, we've been here so long that they're starting to come back, the Donnie McCleskey's, people off that first team. Some of the NFL guys come back to work out, but guys that aren't still playing, they're just out working, like Chase Lyman, Donnie McCleskey, those types of guys who stop back through, Wendell Hunter, they come back through and visit. It's nice to see how they've gone and grown and now, they're off to their other careers and it's great to see them get back into the program."
After Saturday's win, Tedford was presented with a framed No. 75 white jersey. The young man who wears that top on a daily basis -- junior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin -- remarked on his head coach's milestone.
"I was aware of it," Summers-Gavin said. "He was right there in contention to get the most wins, and that's great for him, because, to be up there as the best coach in Cal football history, that's a tremendous honor."
What made it particularly poignant for Tedford was not only the fact that his youngest son Quinn Tedford notched his first career catch - "I guess that doesn't happen every day," the skipper said - but the presence of the rest of his family.
"Over the years, it's been a family affair," Tedford said. "The support of my wife and my kids has always been there, so it makes it extra-special."