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Archive for August, 2012


Time lapse of stadium project

Here’s a pretty nice time lapse of the stadium project, done by the University:

Sandy Barbour declares war on DirecTV

First there was an article on SFGAte, which drew plenty of attention. She was very direct with her quotes:

She’s threatening to cancel her DTV subscription and is encouraging her fellow Cal fans with the service to do the same by Thursday, when Pac-12 games begin airing on the conference’s networks.

“I’ve been a DirecTV customer since 1996. I’d hate to lose it, but I want to get the Pac-12 Networks,” Barbour said.

“DirecTV has been phenomenal in their customer service up until now. This is a nonstarter for me. If DirecTV can’t figure out how to carry the Pac-12 Networks by the first football game (on Thursday), I’m done.”

Now, she REALLY goes for blood and brings a film crew out to her house when she has the Comcast crew out to change her service:

Wow! And I love that it’s a Cal spot when she first brings up the Pac-12 channel.

I’ve always thought Sandy does a very good job and has the right balance of being open and friendly, yet direct when it’s called for. This is a great example of her doing her part to put pressure on DirecTV to get their act in gear and sign a contract with the Pac-12.

Nevada game sold out

Well it took up until the last day, but the finally sold out the Nevada game. About time. I guess not everyone is as excited about tomorrow’s game as I am. I’m seriously bouncing off the walls here. My kids think I’m nuts. :)

The new CMS: Wonder and Awe, what makes it so great?

(This is the third in a four part series taking stock of just how momentous Saturday’s opening game against Nevada will be, coming home to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.)

I truly believe that the upgraded California Memorial Stadium and its attached Simpson center will be regarded as one of the best college football settings in the country. I see 5 things that make it truly special:

1. History

While there is no doubt that this is a *new* stadium, it did it in a unique way that retains its history. There were 4 great stadiums made on the West Coast in the 1920’s (the beginning of big stadium building): The Rose Bowl, the LA Coliseum, Stanford Stadium and California Memorial Stadium. Of those, California Memorial Stadium now becomes the crown jewel for college football. Stanford Stadium entirely lost it’s connection with history when it gutted the old stadium and built the tin rectangle. The LA Coliseum is still a special stadium, but has always been compromised for football as it was built as an Olympic stadium. The seating setup for football is no comparison to the true bowls of Memorial and the Rose Bowl. Plus it has become a dump. The Rose Bowl is someplace very special and always will be. Yet it has one HUGE problem: It’s not on campus. It’s a constant issue of woe for UCLA fans. Plus it’s a bit rundown by modern standards, particularly compared to the renovated Memorial Stadium.

Think about that for a second: California Memorial Stadium has no equal as a historical college football stadium on the West Coast. It’s a remarkable transformation.

2. Geographic Setting

The only Pac-12 stadium that comes close to comparing to Strawberry Canyon is Husky Stadium on the periphery of Lake Washington. If you haven’t made the trip up the western rim of Memorial Stadium in a long time, you owe it to yourself to head over there Saturday afternoon to look at the beauty below. What is amazing about Strawberry Canyon is that you don’t even have to look to the west, the beautiful Eucalyptus covered hills to the east as well as Strawberry Canyon itself are a marvel to behold.

3. Complementing the geography

What adds to the views is how well the stadium is nestled into the surroundings. I’ve been to a lot of stadiums and a number try to make use of the surrounding geography to build the stadium into the environment. Most of the attempts come off very clunky. Sun Devil stadium in Tempe is prototypical. It’s kinda cool from a distance, but once you get close, you realize it’s a monstrosity carved in with blunt instruments. There used to be an aspect of this at Memorial with the exposed dirt under the western wall. No longer. It’s now perfectly nestled into the hillside (and the Simpson center only helps) as if it was always meant to be there.

4. Student Section

Every other stadium renovation I’ve seen have all had one thing in common: The students got booted from their prized 50-yard-line seats to give more opportunities for expensive donor seats. Stanford students are relegated to the corner. Oregon too, even with the Nike money. Oregon State as well when “Reser” came to town. USC did the same, even without an upgrade. While there may be one or two left who still have their students on the 50, I can’t think of one that is. And DEFINITELY not any stadium after an upgrade/replacement.

Cal students: You need to add a new cheer that goes something like “HEY ALUMNI… THANK YOOOOUUU!” The alumni and the athletic department was very generous to you wanting you to have the privilege that was given to the generations before. It’s a special gift you should cherish.

5. Top end training integrated with a top end stadium

Some schools have great stadiums. Some schools have great training facilities. Some schools have both, but they’re miles apart. I only know of one school in the conference that approaches the closeness *and* niceness of the CMS and the Simpson center: Oregon. But even there, they’re just adjacent and very nice. There’s no sense of integration and oneness. If anything they’re a little awkward standing next to each other. It’s very unlike what we now have in Berkeley. Cal went from having substandard facilities to not only having some of the best, but in a way that oozes harmony between the two buildings.

These 5 things mean we’ve got something very special going on in Strawberry Canyon these days and mark my words: You’ll feel it tomorrow, even if you’re watching on TV. It won’t be obvious what it is that makes it so special, at least not right away. Nevertheless there will be an energy tomorrow that can not be solely attributed to the standard things: newness, the return after being away, the triumph after a long struggle. All of those things will be part of it to make it even more euphoric tomorrow. But at it’s root this energy won’t be going anywhere one or two or even ten years from now.

Somehow Memorial Stadium reminds me of the old Berkeley Toyota line:

Nobody Beats Berkeley. They never have and they they never will!

The new CMS: The history

(This is the second in a four part series taking stock of just how momentous Saturday’s opening game against Nevada will be, coming home to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.)

I think it is important to remember just how much has transpired to get us to now. I started off with a post that mostly covered the pre-Tedford activities. Now onto the actual events, with more links to good historical data to keep in your cap than will fit in a 10-gallon cowboy hat, that led to Saturday’s bonanza…

It took 3 years for Tedford’s success (2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons) to really take hold to the degree that progress on the Simpson Center was possible. The first key move the University made to make it happen after Tedford was hired, was to hire Sandy Barbour in September of 2004. As the deputy Athletic Director at Notre Dame she had been responsible for the construction of a 100-000 square foot sports center. Cal needed an AD who knew how to do capital projects.

By the end of 2004 and throughout 2005 Sandy aggressively reached out to Cal’s biggest donors to raise the money needed for the “High Performance Center”. In November of 2005, Cal released its plans for a sports facility immediately to the west of the CMS.

The plan had many facets, but the following was clear:

  • Construction on the HPC would start after the 2006 season
  • The HPC would be ready for the 2008 season
  • The stadium renovation would start at some unstated (but soon) date after that (Ken’s note: I can’t find a link to back this up, but I remember it originally starting after the 2008 season, with 2009 being the away year and 2010 being the re-opening of the CMS)
  • The plan would also include upgrades to the academic facilities for both the law and business schools

The University spent most of 2006 going through the process of formalizing those plans:

  • From May 8th, 2006 to July 7th, 2006 the University circulated the EIR, a necessary first step to its approval and giving us our first glimpse into the specific plans.
  • On October 31st the EIR was completed.
  • On November 14th, 2006 the UC Regents building committee decided to delay on formal approval of the EIR, but did approve the funding plan.
  • On November 16th, 2006 the full board of UC Regents approved the funding plan
  • On December 5th, 2006 the UC Regent building committee approved the EIR

That is to say, things went reasonably smoothly, although the UC regents delay of one month on approval of the EIR was a bit troubling.

Whether or not that was meaningful, could be considered a matter of debate. The City of Berkeley voted in September of 2006 to hire a lawyer to prepare to sue the UC if they approved the project. So it seems likely that no matter how quickly it was approved, there was going to be a lawsuit.

Nevertheless, before the Regents could put their official stamp of approval on the project, local and longtime Berkeley activist Zachary ‘RunningWolf’ decided that he wasn’t going to sit, on the ground anyway, still while the trees were cut down. So on December 2nd, 2006, the day of the 2006 Big Game, he and a handful of activists climbed into the oak trees and started a tree-sit.

3 days later, the UC Regents officially approved the EIR and thus the HPC project.

The opponents of the project didn’t waste any time in filing lawsuits against the project. Between December 11th, 2006 and December 19th, 2006 three different lawsuits were filed. One was by the City of Berkeley. A second was by the Panoramic Hills Association (the homeowners association for the houses above the stadium). The final was by the newly and specifically for this purpose formed “California Oak Foundation”, the legal entity for the tree-sitters.

The very first request of the lawsuits was that an injunction be put on construction. Seeing as how the University was intent on starting right away, the court acquiesced on December 21st, putting a preliminary injunction pending a full hearing, to be held on January 23rd. Just under a week later, on January 29th, Judge Miller confirmed every Cal fan’s worst fear and granted an injunction while the case was heard.

It’s worth taking a short segue in the issue of the value of the tree-sitters and their impact on halting construction. The reality was that it was the injunction starting December 21st that was what put a halt to construction. Considering there were only a handful of days between formal approval of the project and the lawsuits, there was really no opportunity for Cal to start construction. The tree-sitters were the publicity machine for the struggle, but in practice had no impact on halting construction.

Far more important was the involvement of the City of Berkeley. Without their participation, the Panoramic Hills Association (PHA) and the California Oak Foundation (COF) would have had to put a bond for $10 million dollars, something the COF would have no means to afford and the PBA wouldn’t have had the stomach for. However, when a municipality gets involved, no bond is needed and there is no risk of having to pay out the increase in construction costs.

Amidst all of the legal wranglings, the University was continuing to push forward with preparations for the project, including the remaining fundraising. On December 21st, the same day as the injunction was put in place, the name for the HPC was announced. It was to be called “The Simpson Center”

Meanwhile, back in the bat ca… er back in the courts, as with all Environmental Impact cases, things went slowly. On May 25th, 2007 all of the necessary filings were made to the court. In all 198 different documents with 40,055 pages were submitted to the court. Originally oral arguments were supposed to be heard over the summer of 2007, but between various additional filings, motions and briefs, the in-court phase of the trial did not begin until late September 2007.

The hearings themselves would take far to long to go over, but here are some relevant links and nuggets:

After the trial wrapped up, it was back to the waiting game, with the side-show of the tree-sitters to keep us busy. In a separate court the University got permission to remove all the tree-sitters when they saw fit to do it. However, realizing that protecting the grove from re-intrusions while the injunction was still in place would cost more than leaving them there and have significant and unnecessary PR implications, the University chose not to act on that right.

Judge Miller had to rule on the case within 90 days, but we were assured that she’d rule much more quickly than that. But the days and nights passed without a ruling and 89 days later we got the 2nd possible worst news: another delay.

Judge Miller, instead of making a ruling, issued a ruling on a couple of items and ordered more evidence be provided in regards to other areas.

Over the remainder of December 2007 and January 2008 multiple filings and hearings continued to slow things down. It wasn’t until March 20th, 2008 that the actual hearing on the additional evidence Judge Miller requested was heard.

That started another 90-day waiting period, which we were assured again wouldn’t take that long. I vented my frustration at how long this could be drawn out, pointing out the length of the timeline:

  • 12/11/06: Original case filed just days after EIR approved by Regents (and yes, that’s 2006)
  • 1/23/07: Hearing held on Preliminary Injunction
  • 1/29/07: Preliminary Injunction granted (notice how quick that was)
  • 4/23/07: First documents submitted for hearings
  • 7/11/07: First hearing briefs submitted
  • 9/19/07: Start of “2 day hearing” to decide case (hearing delayed from original June estimate)
  • 10/11/07: Final day of “2 day hearing”
  • 10/26/07: Final briefs filed on hearing (90-day timer starts today, ends 1/24/08)
  • 12/10/07: Judge orders additional evidence be submitted
  • 12/26/07: Plaintiffs object to submitting evidence
  • 1/11/08: Hearing on ojbection to additional evidence
  • 1/23/08: Plaintiffs objection denied
  • 2/22/08: Additional evidence submitted by both sides
  • 3/20/08: Hearing on additional evidence (90-day time starts today, ends 6/18/08)

Judge Miller finally released her ruling on the very last day possible, June 18th, 2008. As the ruling approached, things got dicey at the Oak Grove, as seen by these two days (day 1, day 2) of live-blogging of the events.

Immediately after the ruling both sides had declared victory. My thoughts were a bit more mixed. The reality was that while the vast majority of the ruling was in favor of the University, there were a few concessions to the plaintiffs (The City of Berkeley (COB), the PHA and the COF). And much to my credit I for the first time had an accurate assessment of how long it would take to wrap up the remaining legal wrangling: The end of August 2008.

Throughout the remainder of June and July the legal wrangling continued as did the shenanigans at the Oak Grove. The legal wrangling got quite intricate at this point:

  • On July 17th, 2008 Judge Miller issues a ruling promising to lift the injunction and rule in favor of the University.
  • On July 23rd, 2008 COF lawyer Stephan Volker requests a retrial mostly just because he lost the last one.
  • On July 25th, 2008 an appeal was filed.
  • On August 8th, 2008, the appellate judge ‘rejects’ the appeal, but not in the way we’d want. Instead he indicated that Judge Miller had left a mess of an open case and needed to document and wrap things up before an appeal could be heard.
  • On August 15th, Volker withdrew his request for a new trial, instead deciding to put all his eggs in the appeal basket.
  • On August 20th I post my update on BearTerritory.net trying to explain it all.

Finally, on August 27th, a final judgment is issued and the injunction is lifted. However, there’s still the matter of the appeal and a possible injunction by the appellate court. Here I try to make sense of it all over at BearTerritory.net.

The appellate court, very unlike the district court, didn’t waste any time. On September 4th, 2008, the appellate court rejected the request for an injunction. And then the University didn’t waste any time cutting down the trees, cutting them down starting the following day, September 5th and completing it September 9th.

Yes, only 4 days.

The tree-sitters sat in those trees for 643 days, accomplishing nothing other than attracting attention to their ridiculous antics all to slow down what was at most 2 days of cutting to 4 days. What a waste of time.

With the court case won and the tree-sitters gone, the 2008 season was a quite one on the facilities front, with the University waiting until after the season was complete to start the project. After the season ended with a glorious victory over Miami in the nut bowl, the University went right to work, starting with excavation.

By the start of the next season, the 2009 season, less progress had been made than the original plan had indicated. All they had at that point was a reinforced hole in the ground.

Because that hole in the ground had taken away the walkway around the western rim of the stadium, the University put up an elevated walkway made of wood to carry the load. It was mostly a good idea, but it had a problem.

The walkway didn’t extend all the way around the stadium, It went about 40% of the way in on either side. So, if you entered on the north and had to get to the south side of the stadium, you couldn’t walk around the rim walkway like before. You had to head up to the concourse for at least the middle 20%. The same was true if coming from the south and headed to the north end. Of course once up there, only the very determined would head back down to the walkways.

The result was a DRAMATIC increase in the number of people in the concourse on the western side. This came to a head at the USC game with a packed stadium. Both Jason and I wrote separate posts about how bad it was. The University listened to the best of their ability, closing concessions in the concourse during the peak times and adding more security help to direct people to use the appropriate entrance, hopefully walking around the stadium outside the gates.

Amidst all of this, the University was plugging away on getting ready for phase 2 of the project, the renovation of the stadium itself. On September 17th, 2009 the UC Regents approved the funding plan for the retrofit. As part of the plan the Bears would play away from home during the 2011 season.

While the University was plugging away on the Simpson Center, things were otherwise pretty quite through the rest of 2009 into 2010. However, in the summer of 2010 the Appeal made some small news.

See, the Appeal had not been rejected back when the trees were cut down. All that had happened was the judge refused to put an injunction on the case. The result was that Cal could cut down the trees and continue with construction while the appeal proceeded. Since 99% of the lawsuit’s goal was to stop that from happening and attempting to indefinitely delay the project until the University ran out of time and money, once the project was underway, there was little value to the appeal.

But the PHA and the COF were determined and they continued with the case. Finally, in April of 2010, the PHA decided they had enough of paying for lawyers who were accomplishing… what exactly? So they proposed a settlement to the University and settled the case. This left the COF as the only plaintiff and Stephan Volker was back to working pro-bono (as the COF has no money).

Then in September of 2010, the COF officially lost the appeal, bringing an end to a gigantic waste of tax payer dollars (the courts).

This was all small news at this point, with Cal fans anxiously looking forward to the completion of the Simpson Center, which had now been extended to a 3 year project, instead of a 2 year project. Nevertheless, by the time the 2010 season had started, the Simpson Center was complete enough that the wooden walkways were gone and we could now walk on the roof of the Simpson Center, a preview of what life would be like after the stadium renovation. The nice wide walkway was wider than the original walkway to say nothing of the temporary wooden walkway.

Also on fans minds was the renovation itself. There had been a lot of speculation as to where the Bears would play in 2011. The main candidates were the Oakland Coliseum, Candlestick and AT&T park in SF. The Coliseum was a favorite of many as it was the closest and was football friendly. However, with conflicts between both the A’s and Raiders factoring in, it was just too schedule constrained. That left Candlestick, which was a better football park and constantly available, and AT&T, which has the nicest amenities, but had scheduling issues with the Giants and wasn’t ideal for football.

Enter Jeff Tedford and his measuring tape and he found a new way to layout the field, shifted slightly, so that each team could have their own sideline, something that hadn’t been the case in previous football games at the park. That was the last barrier to it being picked and it was announced on May 10th, 2010, that football would be played at AT&T park in 2011.

For the most part fans were pleased. That is, until pricing for 2011 were announced. The University, wanted to make the most of the opportunity, set prices high, hoping the reduced capacity and the significantly better amenities would give them some much needed revenue in a very tight time, both between the economic downturn and all the money that was being poured into the Simpson Center and CMS renovation.

The result, as I predicted, was very low ticket sales particularly in the big donor sections and a half empty, very small stadium for all games except USC. For USC, we were treated to the humiliation that Stanford used to get before they redid their stadium when the Bears came to town. More than half the crowd was rooting for the opponent.

And although AT&T was nice in some ways, it just wasn’t home. It was our time of wandering in the desert. A trial that must be endured. Better amenities were no consolation in a desolate time of soul searching and longing.

We knew how much we missed and loved Memorial Stadium for all of 2011. It added to the anticipation. Was there a day coming when we’d get the quality of amenities we had at AT&T in a football stadium? Would we get it on our home turf, our beloved Strawberry Canyon? Would all the years of sacrifice, of dealing with smelly tree-sitters, ridiculous court cases, dangerously narrow concourse walkways, portable toilets 100’s of yards from our seats, would it all someday be worth it? Could it possibly be true?

It comes true on Saturday morning.

Jeff Tedford’s home for sale

According to this real estate post on SFGate, Tedford’s house in Blackhawk is for sale. You can see pictures of it at the above link.

Just an FYI, the comments on that piece are merciless…

We should do this!

From Ted Miller’s “Worst Case Scenario” for Stanford:

as players are vigilantly studying their playbooks on team-issued iPads, the screens become pixilated and blurry. Then they dissolve into the Cal logo.

“You’ve been hacked by Oski!” it scrolls across the screen over a laughing, dancing Oski. “Tell Schwartzstein to never compare Kissinger to anything at Cal ever again!”

Ten minutes later, Stanford’s entire playbook is on Wiki Leaks.

The Big Game belongs to California, 28-21, as Zach Maynard throws two touchdown passes and the Bears roll up 210 yards on the ground against a rugged Stanford defense.

Seriously, how hard could it be? They’ve probably got sequential serial numbers and network identifiers. All we have to do is get one and the rest won’t be far away. Then we get CGB to hack into “Rule of Tree” and embed some content that when downloaded to an iPad with the right identifiers, waits for the key moment in October.

Notes from gameday information

I’m one of those guys who reads through all of the various documents the University provides about the games. Everything from the A-Z guide to all the maps of the concessions. I was particularly interested this year with the renovations. A few notes for everyone:

  • The company doing the shuttles from the BART stations and other locations around the area into the stadium has changed. More importantly, the price has doubled to $10 a person round trip for the short runs and more for the longer ones. That’s ridiculously expensive for a 2-mile trip in my opinion and makes it prohibitively expensive for a family of 6. Said another way, getting a kid TO the game is 2/3rds the price of getting them a ticket to the game. I’m very thankful we pay for parking passes at this point.
  • They’ve got a new standing policy: “…Please keep in mind that when you stand, you block the view of others. We encourage fans to cheer, but continuous standing in the seating areas will not be tolerated…” That’s a bit worrisome to me. Is standing for meaningful 3rd downs or on key drives or in the redzone considered “continuous standing”? This feels a bit vague to me. No mention of the student section either.
  • The root camera policy has not changed, but they’ve upped the visibility… “Professional Cameras” is now on the prohibited items list. When you click the link to the “Camera policy” it says this: “Guests may bring personal, still-photo cameras (lenses no longer than five inches to capture special moments from Memorial Stadium.” (note that it looks like there’s a missing close parenthesis there.) So effectively they’ve defined a professional camera as one that has a lens longer than 5″, which rules out low f-stop telephoto lenses.
  • There is ZERO mention of personal seatbacks being brought into the stadium, either in the positive or the negative. However, considering the bag policy is 14″ x 14″ x 6″ and there’s no mention of an exception for seat backs (which are usually wider than 14″), this might be an issue. Hard to say for sure, but I’d be nervous bringing one that doesn’t fit in those dimensions.
  • In more positive news, they now have a kids play area in the concourse behind the north endzone. Sometimes those are kinda weak, but I like the effort being made.

Finally, I think it’s worth looking at the maps of the entrances and concourses for the amenities available:
Overall stadium map with numbered gates
Concourse on West Side
Plaza level on the West Side
East Rim

Nice to see so many concessions. :)

The new CMS: A long time in the making

(This is the first in a four part series taking stock of just how momentous Saturday’s opening game against Nevada will be, coming home to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.)

When people think about the newly renovated Memorial Stadium and how long it has been in the making, most will think back to when Tedford was hired, and with good reason. However the story of facility issues at Memorial Stadium have a much longer history.

If I had to put a date on when this process officially began it would be October 17th, 1989 at 5:04 PM. If you’re a Bay Area resident, or were at that time, I’m sure you remember exactly where you were. I was a 14 year-old freshman trying to get my homework done on my computer before the world series started in the room above the garage when the books started shaking off the shelves, when the Loma Prieta earthquake kicked into high gear.

That was 22 years ago. I wasn’t even particularly fond of Cal football at the time, although Cal was were I was headed for college when I graduated from high school.

For far too long the Bay Area had escaped the terror of a life-claiming earthquake, but that streak ended with the collapse of multiple freeways, most notably the Cypress structure freeway in West Oakland that sandwiched its lower deck, killing 42 (a remarkably low number in my opinion considering the length of freeway collapsed).

After the earthquake, dozens if not hundreds of public works projects were started to seismically strengthen everything from dormitories, including on the Cal campus, to freeways to bridges. Memorial stadium, sitting on the Hayward fault was included in the discussions of what needed to be retrofitted, but somehow it never bubbled to the top. The fact that in 1989 the Bears had been riding the cellar of the Pac-10 for over a decade had something to do with it.

But in 1990 something remarkable happened… The Bears started winning. The Cal Bears sparked my interest for the first time, and it seemed that between the multitude of earthquake renovations being done on the Cal campus and what head coach Bruce Snyder was accomplishing on the field (and demanding off the field) that something was likely to happen sooner rather than later.

But then Snyder left for Arizona State, disgusted with an University that had turned its back on athletics and refused to give him the tools he needed to recruit well nor the salary he deserved for succeeding under such difficult circumstances. All of a sudden that “inevitable” retrofit vanished, not to be spoken of again for a decade.

When I became a season ticket holder in 1999, just after graduating from college, the Bears were mired in the Holmoe era, an internal hire who had been defensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci and was supposed to extend Mariucci’s short lived success but instead returned Cal to the basement it was used to from the Keith Gilbertson era. There was no discussion of upgrading Memorial Statdium. Frankly, there weren’t enough people there. The bathrooms were not an issue, despite being archaic, there weren’t enough people there to matter. The same was true of concessions.

Finally, the Cal Bear football team emerged from it’s grave when it hired Jeff Tedford in 2002. Perhaps because so many before him had failed, perhaps because he came from a University that had been putting facilities high on its priority list, perhaps because he wanted to win and knew what it took, Tedford had it written in to his contract that a new training facility would be built and with it, Memorial Stadium would be significantly upgraded.

It’s worth pausing to reflect on just how long it had been. I was no longer a pimple-faced freshman, but a married man and a successful engineer with a 4 bedroom home of my own. Two Republican (!?!) Governors, Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, had completed their terms during that time and Gray Davis was shortly on his way to being recalled. Willie Brown started that era as speaker of the Assembly and ended it in his 2nd term as Mayor of SF. Two different George Bushes had been in the white house. A big eared Texan named Ross Perot had stormed onto the scene to fix the country and had completely vanished back into obscurity. The Dow Jones industrial average had steadily climbed from around 3000 up to near 12,000 before dropping down to as low as 7500 in the 2nd recession of this period. Keith Jackson had retired and then unretired from calling college football games for ABC. Suffice it to say, a lot happened in those 13 years.

Sadly, in 2002, our long facilities nightmare was just beginning…

By the end of the 2002 season it was quite clear that Tedford’s Bears were going to be something very different than their predecessors. The stadium was getting visibly more full with each passing game. Bathrooms were a problem. Concessions were becoming unbearable. The hallways, once easily navigable where now something to be dreaded.

Finally the promise of a new stadium finally had real promise. The campus cared what happened on Saturdays in Strawberry Canyon. The community was spending money on Cal football like it hadn’t in decades. Donations to the athletic department were rapidly on the rise.

I’ll leave the history of the next decade to the next post in the series, but I want to give a few factoids from 2002, when Tedford was hired, the end of 2006, when construction was supposed to start and now.

2002:

  • CA Governor: Gray Davis
  • # of kids in my home: 0
  • # of boats I owned: 1
  • Value of my house: ~$350k
  • Dow: ~8000
  • Key players on the team: Kyle Boller, Joe Igber, Jonathan Makonnen, Nnamdi Asomugha, Donnie McCluskey, Chris Maderino.
  • Issues of the day: Enron, the CA power crisis, starting the Iraq war, Apple has a hit with the brand new iPod.

Things that happened in between:

  • Keith Jackson retired for real.
  • Aaron Rodgers came and went from Cal football and was drafted by Green Bay, starting the speculation on when Brett Favre would retire.
  • Pope John Paul II died and was replaced with Pope Benedict XVI.
  • 14 Cal Bears are drafted by the NFL, including the above mentioned Aaron Rodgers, JJ Arrington, Marvin Philip, Exchemandu, Chase Lyman and Kyle Boller.
  • Lance Armstrong wins his 5th-7th Tour de France titles.
  • The following Cal blogs are started: My personal blog, SturdyGoldenBlogs, TedfordIsGod, TheBandIsOutOnTheField, TightwadHill, RoseBowlBeforeIDie, OurSturdyGoldenBear (and others).
  • America’s Cup is raced in New Zealand and won by Switzerland
  • I start reporting for Rivals

2006:

  • CA Governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • # of kids in my home: 2
  • # of boats I owned: 2
  • Value of my house: ~$530k (down from $580k earlier in the year)
  • Dow: ~12000
  • Key players on the team: Nate Longshore, Desean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Dante Hughes, Desmond Bishop.
  • Issues of the day: ending the Iraq war, Democrats win back Congress, when will Brett Favre retire?, Windows Vista stinks.

Things that happened in between:

  • Brett Favre retires… 3 separate times
  • Apple releases the iPhone, then 4 follow ons, then the iPad, and two follow ons.
  • The following Cal blogs are retired: SturdyGoldenBlogs, TedfordIsGod, TheBandIsOutOnTheField, TightwadHill, RoseBowlBeforeIDie, OurSturdyGoldenBear.
  • The Cosco Buscan runs into the Bay Bridge and the Deepwater Horizon explodes in the gulf
  • 26 Cal Bears are drafted by the NFL, including Brandon Mebane, Justin Forsett, Craig Stevens, Zack Follett, Alex Mack, Syd’Quan Thompson, Jahvid Best, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Conte.
  • I retire from my hobby of sports reporting
  • The following Cal blogs are both started and retired: TheBearWillNotQuit, OskiTalk, BearNecessity (and others)
  • Lance Armstrong retires… 2 times.
  • The following Cal Blogs are started: ExcuseMeForMyVoice, CaliforniaGoldenBlogs, BearsWithFangs (and others).
  • Obama is elected president and the Republicans win back the House
  • America’s Cup is raced twice in Spain (by the Swiss) and is brought back to the US

2012:

  • CA Governor: Jerry Brown
  • # of kids in my home: 4
  • # of boats I owned: 5
  • Value of my house: ~$300k
  • Dow: ~13000 (after bungee jumping from 14k to 7k and back to 10k all in just over a year)
  • Key players on the team: Zack Maynard, Keenan Allen, Isi Sofele, Kendrick Payne, Steve Williams
  • Issues of the day: I’ll let you decide that for yourself…

In short (too late!) this has been a LOONNNGG time coming. Thinking back over all the things that have transpired in that time: The friends who have come and gone; The issues that were critical at the time and are no longer; The changes in the world that have come full circle; the myriad of ways the world has changed since 1989, or even 2002 or 2006… it all points to just how momentous of a moment this is.

While I can take no personal credit for this finally coming to completion, we are the heirs of the Bears fans who have come before us. They have struggled and fought. They have put their hearts and minds into this program. On Saturday it comes to fruition. All the pain and failures were not for naught. We have finally seen our dreams come true and it is a great day for Cal football.

Blessed is he who patiently endures trials; for when he has stood the test, he will gain the victor’s crown

James 1:12

4 part series on new stadium to come

This week I’ll be rolling out a series of posts on the new stadium:

Part 1: A long time in the making
Part 2: A trip down memory lane
Part 3: Wonder and Awe, what makes it so great?
Part 4: The house that Tedford built

I’ll be rolling them out about one a day throughout the week.

RIP Neil Armstrong

It was with great sadness that I heard of Neil Armstrong’s passing at the age of 82. I grew up in a time when the most exciting thing for a young boy was space exploration and Neil Armstrong was of course the icon of that time.

I was always amazed at how little he was in the public eye and always treasured the few interviews I got to see with him. I understand that was what he wanted, and I admire him for having the fortitude to eschew the siren call of cashing in on his fame. Frankly, I feel a little sad for him in that he was perhaps trapped in a persona that may not have entirely been him. Of all the interviews I saw of various astronauts his always had the feel of “I have to act as the representative of NASA and can’t be fully myself”. Every statement was carefully guarded to ensure there was no controversy and it had the full cheer-leading for NASA affect it was expected to have.

However, one can’t feel too sorry for Neil Armstrong. Both his physical and mental gifts have been well documented, and how lucky was it to be in the right place and time that those gifts could net him an experience and life unlikely any other. What a gifted life he led!

Now he gets the rest of being with his maker, and I wish him peace. Thank you for inspiring millions of little boys such as myself, Mr. Armstrong!

Pac-12 network did it wrong

I promised myself I wasn’t going to get into this mess, but I just can’t help myself…

Last year Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott laid out a beautiful vision for Pac-12 sports. All football games to be televised nationally! ABC/ESPN and FOX/FX to carry our “big” games and the rest to be on the nationally available Pac-12 network. A deal has been cut with the big 4 cable companies to ensure just about everyone (subtext: who’s willing to switch providers) will be able to get the Pac-12 network! Plus there will be streaming available too!

Sound great, right?

Yes it does… only one problem, they made a deal with the devil, or at least his video content branch office: the cable companies, who are very adept at making it sound great, but in truth it’s nothing like promised.

When the network launched last week we quickly found out how UN-foolproof the contract Scott negotiated with the ‘big 4′. Apparently the weren’t obligated to carry the Pac-12 network just about anywhere, even in areas well within the “league footprint”, much less across the country. At the same time, the Pac-12 is bound that they can’t stream to non-cable-subscribers, even for a fee, even in regions where they have no ability to get the content, at any price, from a cable company. And I won’t even start (at least in this post) about the whole regional channel problem, where much content will be unique to regional channels and there are currently ZERO providers who offer the ability to get more than one regional channel at any price.

But this isn’t even my complaint for this post. The retort to all the above complaints is that this was the best way to get the Pac-12 to the most homes in the quickest fashion and similarly the best way for the Pac-12 to capitalize (literally: make money) on the Pac-12 network right now.

Frankly, it’s a fair argument and they’re probably right.

But it’s also very short sighted.

Everyone in the know acknowledges that the cable companies are in a tough spot right now. Internet streaming is gutting their business. Netflix streaming was the first salvo that dramatically undercut the cable companies. Over time there will be very little the cable companies can do to prevent customers from getting what they always wanted all along: a-la carte programming directly from the vendor.

But the problem is that the percentage of viewers who are ready for an all-streamed solution is small, particularly outside technically savvy regions like Northern California. So what do you do when you’re the Pac-12 network? Do you eschew the cable providers and go all-streaming knowing that in the short term you’re going to lose some viewers? Or instead do you make a deal with the devil’s local branch office?

I’m actually OK with making the deal, with one caveat… you have to come up with a transition plan/strategy. How are you going to get out of that deal in 5-10 years when just about every American household is streaming capable and all the cable companies are doing is holding you back?

And unless Scott is a super-genius who’s written in some key time-bomb/exit clause into his contracts (which the way the last month has unfolded seems exceedingly unlikely), that’s the problem.

This contract was written explicitly to ensure that the Pac-12 CAN NOT make the transition. The reason is simple: you have to have an agreement with a cable company for the Pac-12 to be able to stream content to you. In other words the cable companies have ensured that they’re the arbiter of the Pac-12 Network. There’s no escape. The only way out is a cold-turkey approach, one that will tick off people who are stuck in multi-year contracts with the cable company when the Pac-12 finally decides to stop selling the Pac-12 network to the cable companies and stream independently. Those customers will, for a year or two, be stuck paying their cable bill without getting the channels they signed up for AND be asked to pay independently for the Pac-12 streaming service.

The right solution was to start off all-streaming and charge for that stream. There are enough die-hard Pac-12 fans who are young/savvy enough to start off with meaningful revenue in 2012. Work aggressively to get a plug-in on all the major streaming boxes from the Roku to the Bluray players and the TVs to make it available to the somewhat savvy. The NHL did it that way, and I don’t know how successful it is right now, but I guarantee you in the long run they’re going to look like geniuses.

But not the Pac-12.

5 years now when business magazines and websites will be lauding the NHL for re-inventing itself after their strike and getting ahead of the technology transition, from being locked in to the cable companies, the Pac-12 will be mired in binding contracts and we’ll be wondering what the heck Larry Scott was thinking in 2012 when he made the remarkably short-term decision to make a deal with the devil.

WHAT non-conference road game problem!?!

The conventional wisdom is that the Bears don’t travel well, particularly for long distance non-conference games. I was thinking about this as I was re-watching the 2009 Minnesota game this afternoon (just taking a Sunday afternoon to be lazy).

Here’s Tedford’s history of non-conference road games:

2002 @ Michigan State: Won 46-22
2003 Neutral Kansas State: Lost 28-42
2003 @ Utah: Lost 24-31
2003 @ Illinois: Won 31-24
2004 @ Air Force: Won 56-14
2004 @ Southern Miss: Won 26-16
2005 @ New Mexico State: Won 41-13
2006 @ Tennessee: Lost 18-35
2007 @ Colorado State: Won 34-28
2008 @ Maryland: Lost 27-35
2009 @ Minnesota: Won 35-21
2010 @ Nevada: Lost 31-52
2011 @ Colorado: Won 36-33 1-OT

That’s an 8-5 record. That’s pretty much where the Bears have historically played over those years, between 7-5 and 8-4 most years.

It seems to me, this is more about perception than anything else. Yes, yes, I know, we stunk against Tennessee. But that was both a pretty good Tennessee squad and a game that had a number of big plays early that made it worse that it really way. Yes, yes, I know, we stunk against Maryland, the only TRUE stinker of the list above. I was THERE, I KNOW how much they stunk that day.

But we all seem to highlight those games and then forget the strong performances like 2009 Minnesota or 2002 Michigan State. We also forget how good some of the teams we lost to were. In 2010 Nevada won the Mountain West, upsetting a top-5 ranked Boise State on the same field where they beat us.

So I guess what I’m saying is, let’s discuss our upcoming match-up against Ohio State based on it’s merits, not some delusional “we stink on the road when we have to cross the Mississippi” point, or whatever the current thinking is.

Bears practice in Memorial for first time

A day after first anticipated, but days earlier than more recently projected, the Bears practiced for the first time in the renovated Memorial Stadium today.

I’ve been holding off on my renovated Memorial Stadium opus until closer to the first game, so I’ll be brief today…

This is a great day for Cal football. We are officially home. The tree-sitter protest started on December 2nd, 2006, so it’s been nearly 6 years that the team has been in some state of dislocation/disruption. All of that ends today and I find myself surprisingly emotional about it.

I went back to verify that it was indeed 12/2/06, because I took pictures. In my date-ordered picture archive, just before the tree-sitter pictures but on the same day were pictures of my kids at the FunZone before the game. Here’s a picture of my eldest son on that day next to a picture of him taken recently:
Gregory in 2006 and now in 2012
(Gregory as a spunky 3 1/2 year old when the tree-sitter protest started in December, 2006 and as a nearly 9 year old 1st Communicant in April, 2012)

Yeah, it’s been that long…

Personally, I feel like the kid on the left today. We’re coming out of a very dark tunnel and it’s as exciting as can be!

(More to come on just how long it’s been.)

The 3 phases of Tedford

I’ve had a few thoughts bouncing around in my head regarding Tedford’s personality that have finally gelled.

It started when comparing Romney to Tedford, not in their politics (I have no idea what Tedford’s politics are), but personality. People call Romney “The Android” because all his attempts at acting casual, where he shows his (supposedly) human side, all come out looking like an android who’s trying to fake it. It seems to me that Tedford suffers for the same sort of problem and it has most definitely affected the program.

But if it’s been a permanent defect, why didn’t it affect the early teams? And that’s when I hit upon the following 3-phase theory:

Phase 1: The freshman (2002-2006)
When Tedford came to Cal, he came to a program that was naturally VERY hungry. After years of failure, all of the players in the program were aching for a measure of success. They were ready to put their trust in anyone who had a plan for how to succeed. So when Tedford came in as a geeky, know-it-all freshmen, the team was perfectly happy to copy his homework, so to speak.

Tedford didn’t have to motivate, he just had to show the well motivated players how to succeed. And much to Tedford’s benefit, through his excellent skills as a coach, an undervalued talent rich team and a little bit of luck, success came right away. The freshman was a hero!

But like all freshmen with a little bit of luck, it wasn’t all Tedford’s doing. Also like all freshmen, he was humble enough and excited enough about the success to not over step his capabilities or to assume that it was all his doing. He continued to work hard, to continue to have success and as he continued to work hard and have success, he graduated.

Phase 2: The sophomore (2007-2010)
Sadly, all freshmen, with their quirky mixture of excitement, nervousness, undoubt and humility, must “advance” to becoming sophomores.

Sophomores know just enough to be dangerous. Humility gives way to a false confidence. They start to think they’re better at more than they are.

Thus Tedford hands off his best expertise, coaching quarterbacks and managing the offense, and tries to focus on “team chemistry”. One big problem: This isn’t his strength. As I stated in the lead-in regarding Romney, it’s not really believable. It’s not really him. He’s not particularly comfortable in the role.

To make matters worse, the false confidence, the lost freshman humility, exacerbates his difficulties. The result is a mediocre leadership job and a dearth of his tactical leadership of the offense. Nate Longshore never overcomes his 2007 injury. Kevin Riley never truly makes the most of his potential. A string of offensive coordinators who can never quite find their grove are invited in and escorted out after butting heads with a coach who can’t quite decide if he’s CEO or if he’s the tactical genius… and he handles the indecision like a sophomore, instead of like either an exuberant freshman or the more experienced upperclassman.

It’s probably worth taking a quick interlude to make clear that I think being a head coach is an exceptionally hard job, one that I doubt I could ever do. It’s a rare combination to find a mature man who both connects high school seniors to convince them to come to Cal and can continue that connection through their college years, all the while having the right combination of leadership that both disciplines and inspires, and the football knowledge/insight needed to make a top-flight football program work.

So when I say he struggled as a sophomore I say it in no more a condemning way than when I look back on my sophomoric periods in my life and wonder how I survived both because of how difficult those times were and how much of a sophomoric idiot I was. It’s empathy, not criticism, for the most part.

But struggle Tedford did. He put on a false facade of confidence like all sophomores do, but it’s transparently obvious to everyone else that it’s a facade. For the first time, people wonder if Cal is going to be successful in the long run.

Thankfully, like all sophomores, their false facade is only a mask and inside they’re working harder than they’re willing to admit. They’re torn up inside by what used to be so easy when they were a freshman and it really bothers them. It drives them to find new paths to success. It’s not an easy path and it’s full of lots of dead ends and stunted/foolish attempts to solve the problem.

Eventually, and not when the sophomore wants them to be over but when they’re truly ready, the sophomore does graduate.

Phase 3: The upperclassman (2011-present)
When I’ve watched the post-practice interviews, I’ve seen a very different Tedford than others. I’ve heard complaints about him looking bored or disengaged, sometimes too defensive, sometimes not defensive or passionate enough. That’s not the Tedford I see at all.

I see a Tedford who’s finally comfortable in his own skin. I see a Tedford who has true confidence in himself, not a false facade. I see a Tedford who’s jokes and off-hand comments reflect who he really is, not who he wants to pretend he is. He’s embraced that he’s more of a X’s and O’s nerd than an inspiring leader. He’s found a way to be the head of a program that works for him.

I don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. Not all upperclassmen are straight A students. Tedford’s natural skills may not be enough to be the well rounded head coach who can simultaneously entice, motivate, discipline, control, teach, form and be an expert at the game.

Early on, he didn’t need to be all those things. He was standing on the shoulders of others, who left him a somewhat intact city to build up. 10 years of head coaching behind him, he no longer has the luxury of standing on other’s shoulders. He must do it all himself and I don’t know if he has what he needs to be successful.

What I do know is that what we get out of Tedford in the next handful of years will be the best that Tedford can offer. We no longer have a freshman who’s figuring it out as he goes nor a sophomore who projects a facade of experience while struggling on the inside.

We finally have our upperclassman.

Where have all the BT headsets gone?

Remember when every 3rd idiot was walking around with one of those stubby bluetooth headsets in their ear all day long? It occurred to me yesterday as I was leaving work, that trend is officially over and has been for some time.

Not that people don’t use BT headsets anymore, I have one and use it when on an extended call, but the trend of permanently leaving it in ones ear is no more.

I guess everyone who did it realized that instead of making them look like someone cool and important who could be receiving a critical call at any moment, what they really looked like was a techno-dork who thought way too much of themselves.

Pawlawski to join Starkey on radio

I’m of a mixed mind on this, but Mike Pawlawski (and if I have to tell you who he is, just leave now, OK?… wait, that was prematurely harsh… go look it up and then come back) just joined the Cal Football radio team, replacing Troy Taylor:

http://www.ibabuzz.com/beartalk/2012/08/10/football-mike-pawlawski-to-join-cal-radio-team/

I haven’t been listening to the radio broadcasts in the last few years. When I last listened with any regularity Grosscup was with Starkey. So I don’t know how Troy Taylor was doing. Maybe this is a step up.

But what I don’t like about Pawlawski is that when I see him on the TV broadcasts he treats us like children and only has a couple meaningful things to say that he repeats over and over and over… particularly if you’re watching over multiple games. How many times last year did I hear that Allen had “great kinesthetic awareness”?

Maybe he’s different on radio, so I don’t know really whether this is a good pick, but if he’s anything like he is on TV, I predict it’ll be a short run and Starkey, who’s notorious for getting rid of guys he doesn’t gel with, will show him the door within a season or two.

Hilarious Olympic sailing commentary

For those who don’t know, my other hobby is sailing. It’s a much misunderstood sport and thus it doesn’t make very good television. Well, there’s lots of reasons it doesn’t make good television, but it doesn’t help that people don’t much understand it.

Enter Francis Higgins, who decided to do some spoof commentary of the s Olympic coverage of sailing (yes, there is sailing in the Olympics). It’s rare you’ll see me link to NSFW (the commentary has some crude language) video, but it’s too funny not to post:

http://gawker.com/5932302/the-best-olympic-commentary-ever-is-too-good-for-television

My gut as a sailor is that Mr. Higgins knows more about sailing than he leads on and part of the humor is making fun of Olympic commentators who are pressed into service covering sports they know little about.

TV contracts and the Pac-12 Network

As I just posted, I’m going to most of the games this year. That’s why you won’t hear a lot from me about the TV contracts and the new Pac-12 Network. As mentioned in a previous post, we “cut the cord” after last season, dumping DirecTV after many years. It was just too expensive and we hardly watch TV at our house, not for any theological/principled reasons, but just because we’re always doing something. Netflix streaming filled any holes we had, especially for the kids.

At that time, the plan was that we’d likely turn back on service for the football season. But since we’re now talking about only 3 games, I made the budgetary decision to leave it off and watch the 3 remaining games from a local sports bar. I’m sure I’ll find one with a free Wi-Fi connection and a power outlet to do live-blogging.

Plus, since I was projecting the TV service to cost on the order of $250 for the season, I’ll be able to buy more beer and hot-wings than any human should reasonably eat… although that’s unlikely to slow me down. :)

It may be that I’ll regret not paying more attention to the TV contracts, as there may be issues with finding sports bars that have the games. It occurred to me that most sports bars use DirecTV as it traditionally has the most sports, but as most of us know, at this juncture there is not a contract between DirecTV and the Pac-12 Network.

So perhaps there WILL be plenty of time for hand-wringing and rants.

Road trips: Going to all but 3 games this year

Last year was a tough one for me, game wise. Not only did I not make it to any true road game (I’m not counting Fresno State or the Big Game) for the second year in a row after multiple years of going to most of them, I also missed two home games due to family conflicts (WSU and OSU). I guess 5 games is a fair amount when looking at it from some perspectives, but for me, it was a heck of a drought to get through.

That changes this year!

There was almost NO WAY I was going to miss getting a chance to go to the Horseshoe, even if the Bears get killed by Ohio State. Plus, my brother had his 1st child in July(a boy, to keep family tradition alive) and this new Uncle would like to go out an see him. Thus we’ll do like we did in 2008 with the Maryland game: combo a trip out to see him in Massachusetts with a can’t-miss football game. (Yes, I recognize it’s a long way from MA to Columbus, but it was a long way from MA to Maryland too and that didn’t stop us :) )

Then there’s the new Pac-12 teams. Now that I’ve been to all Pac-10 stadiums, I’m sure not going to let a couple new members poke a hole in my accomplishments. I knew the week they were announced as additions to the conference that I’d be making trips out there as soon as they were on the conference schedule.

Since Salt Lake City is just up the railroad track from Roseville, it also provided a unique opportunity to give my boys a chance to do the long Amtrak ride they’ve been begging for, for years. Sure, the Saturday AM arrival time of 3:05 AM is a bit rough, as is the 11:30 PM departure time, but that sort of thing has never stopped me before. Plus, my kids deserve to see just how crazy their father is. The only question is whether we’re staying over Saturday night and making a side trip up to the Golden Spike on the other side of the Great Salt Lake from SLC.

(As a side note, did any of you know that less than 35 years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the section of track where the Golden Spike was driven was abandoned for a more southern route that had less curves and grade issues? They call it the “Lucin Cutoff” and it’s the reason Salt Lake City is even on the railroad route. Then in 1942 the original rails were pulled up for metal during WWII, so there’s not even an operating track at the site of the Golden Spike anymore.)

To add to my Cal Bear riches, there are no conflicts this year with any home games, so I will be going to all 7 of those. In total, that means I’ll be going to 9 of the 12 games, only missing 3. Heck, if the Bears are undefeated after the trip to Ohio State and USC looks vulnerable, I might not be able to talk myself out of doing the bungee trip down I-5 to the LA Coliseum. Although my sofa is closer to the nearest high-school field than the visitor seats at USC at to the field, so that’s always a downer.

In any case, I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the fall routine of going to lots of games.

Anyone else going to Ohio State or Utah?