The football fortunes are sinking in Berkeley.
Cal has plummeted into insignificance, booed off its jewel of a refurbished Memorial Stadium last Saturday after a lethargic, penalty-filled 27-17 setback to Arizona State. The Bears are 1-4 with No. 25 UCLA invading Strawberry Canyon tonight and ranked Stanford, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State on the horizon.
Even more, Cal is surrounded by the more appealing A's, Giants and 49ers. Even 4-1 San Jose State seems like a better option.
Cal attendance is dropping while ill will and impatience are rising among restless boosters and fans who expected better out of coach Jeff Tedford in his 11th season.
No one projected a Rose Bowl visit for the first time since 1959, but this?
"It's not because of a lack of effort that we're struggling," said Steven Moore, a 6-foot-7 offensive lineman out of Elk Grove High School. "We know Tedford is under pressure. He's a good coach, and he cares about us as young men, and we appreciate that. People don't realize that."
Moore has remained loyal to Cal. He chose Berkeley, he says, for the school and because of Tedford. He recalled a visit to Tedford's home with other recruits. Moore said the coach skunked all comers in pool as a comedic "shark."
Moore, a freshman, said this week he is delighted to be at Cal, despite playing in the midst of a storm.
"It's tough right now, but I really think the future is bright at Cal. We'll be back," he said.
But will Tedford?
Cal has no bite, no momentum, all reflected in the program's poorest start since a 1-10 effort in 2001. That mess marked the end of the Tom Holmoe era and ushered in Tedford. Cal students were so giddy then that they wore tie-dye shirts with "In Ted we Trust."
Now there are new sayings: "In Ted we Disgust?" The campus paper, the Daily Californian, wrote last week that students are gulping Ted "Haterade."
The Bears have been in steady decline while most of the Pacific-12 Conference has inched forward. Cal has 13 wins in its last 32 outings, hasn't won a bowl game in four years and will have to scramble to finish .500.
What went wrong? For starters, Cal has struggled to find consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers in 2004, and without a playmaker, there's no chance. Cal can't protect the one it has now. Zach Maynard has been sacked 19 times in the past three games.
Cal should be thriving, Tedford admitted this week, days after proclaiming himself "miserable."
"I know things are out there," Tedford said during Tuesday's Pac-12 media call of growing fan discord. "I don't read it or get into it. These are tough times. No one's happy about it."
Tedford has three years remaining on an extension granted him following the 2010 season. So fire him, right? Not that simple. Tedford has a no-buyout clause in his $2.3 million annual contract, and Cal isn't flush with cash.
Storm clouds appeared over Cal last winter. Weeks before national letter-of-intent day, assistant coach Tosh Lupoi left the Bears to join Washington's staff. The nationally renowned recruiter was visiting lineman Arik Armstead of Pleasant Grove High School and his family in Elk Grove with Tedford in January when, within a short time, Lupoi switched allegiances to Washington. While Tedford headed back to the Bay Area, Lupoi that night zipped to north Sacramento for an unscheduled visit with Cal's other prized target, safety Shaq Thompson of Grant. Lupoi urged Thompson to switch his verbal commitment from Cal and join him in Seattle, which he eventually did.
Armstead was "99 percent" sure he was headed to Cal, the family said then, before Lupoi's switch.
Armstead opted for Oregon, where he plays a lot on the defensive line.
Think those players could've helped Cal?