Monday, April 19, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO-On Monday morning, under steel-grey skies threatening rain across the Bay, one could very nearly see a preview of the 2011 Cal football season, standing on the turf at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants and-come 2011-the Bears.
"Given the announcement today, we have apropos football weather," said Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, just outside the first base dugout. "We are excited today to announce that Cal has reached an agreement with the San Francisco Giants to play our 2011 home games here at AT&T Park."
While the west side of California Memorial Stadium is being retrofitted and renovated, the Bears will have to vacate the 87-year-old venue, and have, for the past several months, been working with all three major professional sports venues in the Bay Area, and finally settled on the Giants' ball yard as the temporary home away from home. The last time that Cal took the field at the China Basin stadium was on Dec. 27, 2008, when the Bears faced off against Miami in the Emerald Bowl.
Barbour, head coach Jeff Tedford as well as Giants President-and Cal alum-Larry Baer each addressed the media, with Baer sporting a blue shirt and a gold tie. Baer led off his address with a hearty, "Go Bears!"
"I'm excited to have Cal football here for 2011," Baer said. "This has been very exciting, a couple of years in the making, as the renovations at Memorial Stadium were coming to fruition, and the plan was put together. This has been the product of a lot of hard work, and we really appreciate the careful due diligence by Sandy and her staff, and Jeff on the football side, have taken to analyze the decision and to put together this partnership.
"From our standpoint, it's the coming together of two venerable institutions, and, in many ways, for us, it's a neighborly act. We do not plan on being a football venue, long-term, every year, but certainly, if we can help out, if we can help the University of California in 2011 in a way that allows for a compelling football experience for the fans, we believe that we can offer Cal, and Cal's fans, an intimate experience, a loud experience for football and an exciting experience."
Baer mentioned that the use of a Major League Baseball stadium for football was not an unprecedented event, mentioning the use of both Shea and Yankee Stadiums for gridiron action in the past and Chicago's Wrigley Field's history of Chicago Bears games and the scheduling of a Big Ten game this fall.
"On the scheduling front, we will be honest and say that there is a possibility in October-and it's not necessarily something that we would be disappointed in-that we might have to lose a game or two if the Giants qualify for the postseason," Baer said. "But, all of that scheduling, obviously, will be determined as we play baseball in 2011. We will play up to six games of Cal football here in 2011, and we're very excited to do so."
As of now, the home schedule consists of a game against Oregon State on Sept. 24, a game against Washington State on Oct. 15, a game against Arizona on Oct. 29 and a game against USC on Nov. 12. Two out-of-conference games have yet to be scheduled.
Playing the Field
"We hope to make this feel like home, and we're going to get over here a couple of times and have a couple of practices so the players get familiar so this feels like home, and that's important," Tedford said. "(Witter) is going to be turf, and we're finalizing that right now. I have a meeting on Thursday, and we're going to talk about the kind of turf that's going in up there and how long it's going to be there and so on and so forth. There's a lot going on back in Berkeley. We're moving our offices up into trailers; we're re-doing everything. It's exciting that there's a lot happening, and there will be some inconveniences at some turn, but it's all well-worth it."
During the season, Cal will dress in the home locker room, designed for 40 svelte major league baseball players, not the notably-larger 80-plus football players it will have to accommodate. Tedford, for his part, was not worried about space concerns.
"When we played here in the bowl game, it accommodated us pretty well, so I don't have any concerns about that," Tedford said. "We're going to be in that locker room over there (the home locker room), and that's what we did in the bowl game and it all worked fine. It didn't feel cramped or anything."
Another difference between Memorial and AT&T will be the turf itself. For the first time since 2002, Cal will play its home games on natural grass, rather than Momentum Turf.
"This stuff performs really well," Tedford said. "That's one of the questions I asked when we made our little trip out here, was how it drains and so on and so forth, if we happen to get some rain, how it's going to recover, and if you had a real bad game here, if it got tore up pretty bad, how quickly they could replace it, and they feel great about being able to do that. The field guy walked about every inch of this place with me the day that I was out here, so he was very helpful."
While in years past, the Emerald Bowl participants have had to share a sideline with the opposing team, the field of play has been tweaked to allow for two sidelines, with the Bears on the third-base side of the stadium and the visiting teams on the right-center field sideline.
"I believe that the major change will be that the teams will not share a sideline," Baer said. "The opposing teams will face each other on opposite sidelines. We'll be adding some bleachers, and so it will have a capacity of 45,000. This was a fix that was done a couple of years ago, and there will be more space between this (the left field line) end zone and the wall than there had been before."
Another aspect about the venue that had been debated was the size of the playing field, and that it had possibly been shorted by several yards to make it fit. Rest assured, Barbour said, that issue has been addressed, and the field has been "re-jiggered.".
"It will be a true 100 (yards)," Barbour said. "We have actually worked with them, with the Giants, to make some adjustments to both ends, and I know that this end (the right field corner) will be on the warning track, and we actually want to leave it warning track and not put sod over it so that receivers know exactly where they are. We have lengthened the end of the end zones."
Tedford, for his part, saw the big picture when faced with the venue decision, taking into account not only the football side of things, but the fan experience as well, an experience that, Barbour said, would serve as a bridge to what the Cal faithful can expect to see in the remodeled Memorial Stadium.
"It really was more about fan amenities, I think, and accessibility for our fans and for our students, it just felt like it was a lot closer for them to get here, and I think our experience at the bowl game had a lot to do with it," Tedford said. "The feedback from our fans (from the bowl game) was a factor, I think, as far as the experience they had on gameday. That had a lot to do with the decision to come here."
Barbour went even further, acknowledging that the 2008 Emerald Bowl, where the Bears defeated the Hurricanes 24-17, was akin to a large-scale focus group as the athletic department began to weigh options for the 2011 season.
"I think, until the Emerald Bowl, it was really difficult for us to envision what playing football here would be like," Barbour said. "Larry and I had been having discussions at that point, for at least six months or so, and that, for me, personally, and I think for us as a team, really was a, 'Yeah, this could work.' Our fans just loved it. They loved the venue, they love being in the city, they love winning."
AT&T Park will have a football seating capacity of 45,000.
The 45,000-seat capacity-far less than the current 72,000-seat configuration in Berkeley-will likely mean reduced allotments for opposing teams, and will also mean a premium value on tickets. However, the last few years' average of about 38,000 season tickets should fit comfortably, according to Assistant Athletic Director and media relations director Herb Benenson. Ticket sales for this year were not yet available, but Benenson was confident that the numbers would remain in the 38,000 range. Final numbers will not be available until September.
"In terms of our season-ticket holders, we believe that the 45,000 seating capacity can accommodate our current season-ticket holders," Barbour said. "It will be important to ensure seats in 2011 for our holders in 2010. One of the things that absolutely will be reduced is the visiting team allotments, as well as the various promotions and the other things that we do. Any tickets that will go on sale from a single-game standpoint will obviously be at a premium. Once we determine what that overflow is, I think we can look at other kinds of activities (around campus) that can satisfy the appetite of our fans for Cal football."
As for the Student Section, and the location of the other various sections of fans, discussions are still ongoing.
"We've begun to consider that, but at this point, having just solidified this as our venue, I think it would be premature to point those things out," Barbour said. "We're being compacted a little bit (in the Student Section). I don't have the number in my head. It is commensurate with about what student attendance has been. Having our students is very important. It's one amongst many of the reasons that we chose this venue-because we felt that it was easy for our students to jump on BART, and we'll probably do something from a transportation standpoint. It's less than what we have fully-allotted in the past, but I think it mirrors pretty well what student attendance has been."
In the vein of having AT&T being a stepping-stone to the renovated Memorial Stadium, Barbour said that the luxury suites would be available for fans come 2011.
"The full stadium is going to be available. What we have promised our Endowment Seating holders is that they would have access to the best seats in the house, wherever it was that we were going to play, and try to mimic and bridge to 2012," Barbour said. "I was in one of (the boxes) for the Emerald Bowl, and it was pretty darn good for a pretty darn good football game. From our Emerald Bowl experience, and over the next year, or not-quite year, we'll study the stadium, and we'll probably do some stuff with our fans to figure out what they consider to be the best football seats."
One of the negatives that eliminated the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum from contention was the fact that that facility hosts two professional teams-the Oakland Athletics and the Oakland Raiders.
"There were lots of pro's and con's. The Oakland Coliseum is more proximate to our campus, has a bigger capacity, but they were the one of the three where we would have to deal with two permanent tenants and juggle that logistically," Barbour said. "It was a balance. Would it have been perfect if AT&T had a larger capacity? Of course it would have. But, we'll make it work for a year."
While the Coliseum is more football-friendly, the scheduling conflicts that could ensue were, in the end, too much to navigate.
"The baseball schedule is not out, so we don't know what the turnaround time is, but we do know that we have, with George Costa and our grounds crew, we have a 24-hour turnaround, if need be," Baer said. "We can do it in 24 hours, we've done it before. We've had some football here before in-season back with the other professional leagues like the XFL, so it can be done. As the league puts together the schedule for 2011, they will look at this park like they would look at an NFL facility, and they will make scheduling combinations. But, until the schedule is out, we can't say, specifically, what the turnaround will be, but the league is well-aware of the needs, and we'll be accommodated for what we need."
Asked whether back-loading the road schedule would be a possibility, Tedford said that the program was awaiting a decision on the stadium situation before moving forward with 2011 scheduling.
"We still have a couple of open dates, which we were waiting for this to happen to kind of solidify those dates and those opponents," Tedford said. "There are a couple of things that are in the works right now that should be taken care of here pretty soon. This is the first step to get that finalized."
The high-definition video board at AT&T should enhance the fan experience with stats and replays.
For several seasons now, the Memorial Stadium scoreboards have been a shadow of their former selves, no longer displaying in-game yardage statistics on the right halves of the north and south boards perched atop the stands. With the 103-foot-wide high-definition video board in center field at AT&T, that could change.
"That's a big-time scoreboard, without a doubt, so I'm sure that it has the flexibility to do pretty much anything," Tedford said. "To me, that's a minor issue. They'll figure out if they have to roll in another one for scores and stats."
As to whether the renovated Memorial will have statistics available, Barbour was non-committal, but with an optimistic undertone.
"That's a technological capacity issue that there wouldn't be here," Barbour said. "It's also a philosophical one. We'll have to wrestle that one to the ground when the time comes."
The Other Contenders
The previously-mentioned Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, as well as the San Francisco 49ers' home at Candlestick Park, were both in the running along with AT&T to house the Bears in 2011.
"You look at all three venues, and they all had plusses and they all had minuses," Barbour said. "I think that (capacity) was really the only significant challenge that AT&T posed, and it was exactly that: it was a balance. It's one year, and there are two factors there: who can't come and the financial model. Both of those had to be considered."
The decrease in seating capacity was, according to Barbour, a sacrifice that had to be made.
"In the end, you have to think about the fact that it is a one-year issue," Barbour said. "We will return to California Memorial Stadium that will have a capacity north of 60,000, and we had to take all of those other things into consideration."
Moving Cal football across the Bay for a season will allow for the Bears access to a fan base that had heretofore been underutilized. Playing under the lights of a major city was too attractive a prospect to pass up.
"One of the positives on the pro and con list for AT&T was an opportunity to play in a community that we don't necessarily always have a presence in, or be closer to some that we do have a connection with, and have Cal football be a part of, instead of the Bay Area community, part of the San Francisco community," Barbour said.
Perhaps the most prominent plus for AT&T Park was its accessibility via multiple avenues of transportation.
"We've got BART, we've got the light rail, we have the ferry coming in from Alameda," Baer said. "Really, this whole venture is designed to make Momo's really happy."
All joking from Baer aside in reference to the popular watering hole across the street from the ballpark, safe transit, particularly for the sudsy crowd, was high on the priority list.
"Yes, certainly, we'll have shuttles for the students, just like the Rose Bowl," Barbour said.
Coach Tedford lifts the Emerald Bowl trophy after defeating Miami on Dec. 27, 2008.
Home Away From Home
Tedford is working hard to make sure that the transition across the Bay Bridge won't affect his players too much, and said that it's not the building that makes the program, but the fans that fill it.
"We're not that far away anyway. We usually stay at the Marina (before games), and that's halfway between Memorial Stadium and here anyway," Tedford said. "I think this will definitely be considered home for us. I don't think that there's going to be any major change where the kids are going to feel discombobulated with where they are or feel like they're on the road, because they're going to have their fans here. The fans are what makes it feel like home."
The 2008 Emerald Bowl gave Tedford a feel for what home games in the new stadium would be like, and he came away with glowing reviews from that cold December night.
"The fans are right on top of you. This is shaped much differently than Memorial Stadium, which is much more spread out. These people are right on top of you," Tedford said. "Usually, I don't hear much in the stadium because I have the double headsets on, but I remember taking my headset off a couple of times during this game, and it was roaring. When we caused that fumble down there in the end zone, when (Zach) Follett hit that guy, this place was rocking. It has the ability to really get loud in here, and that's what you really want for a home field. Hopefully, the tickets are going to be at a premium for people who want to pack the house and get it going, so it'll be a great experience for all of us."
A jubilant Baer threw in his two cents, also.
"The fans will be right on top of you," Baer said to Tedford. "You'll have your back to the Bear Backers! They'll probably be able to hand you plays."
The Most Important Question
One question, the answer to which many Cal fans are sure to await with baited breath, is the question of beer sales. And they will have to wait just a bit longer, though the signs do look promising.
"The degree of the availability of alcohol has not yet been determined," smirked a coy Cal Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour. "All of that was discussed with the Giants, in terms of how we will move forward and I think it really is a true partnership in terms of how the season will go. One of the attractive parts of this was that we will have access to everything that this beautiful stadium has to offer."
Baer said that he has seen the plans for the Memorial Stadium renovations helped with the organization of concessions and stadium amenities.
"It's really our goal to simulate that experience here in 2011, so that Cal fans can take a step towards what they're going to be experiencing in 2012 and beyond," Baer said. "All the amenities-the concessions, the customer service, everything that we try so hard to do-we're going to make sure is up to par with the expectations for the new stadium, come 2012."
BERKELEY - Both sides of the ball had bright spots when the Cal football team hosted its annual spring open practice on a beautiful morning under clear skies at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. An estimated crowd of 3,000 enjoyed a rare opportunity to take in a Cal football practice. The event was presented by Peterson Tractor as part of the Cal Day festivities that take place on campus each April.
California 2010 Football Schedule
Sat., Sept. 4 - UC Davis (TBA)
Sat., Sept. 11 - Colorado (TBA)
*Sat., Sept. 25 - at Arizona (TBA)
*Sat., Oct. 9 - UCLA (TBA)
*Sat., Oct. 16 - at USC (TBA)
April 17 2010
BERKELEY-Now, we're even.
That declaration on the part of the Cal football team's offense was made loud and clear on Saturday, as the Bears offense put on a show for the Cal Day crowd, tallying seven touchdowns and two field goals and getting the better of the defense for the first time this spring.
The bulk of the running back work went to Sofele, who ran nine times for 56 yards despite a barking hip.
Courtesy: Pepperdine Sports Information
MALIBU, Calif. - The Pepperdine men's basketball team's frontline just got a lot bigger as the Waves have signed 7-foot, 330-pound Jan Maehlen to a national letter-of-intent, head coach Tom Asbury announced today. Maehlen attends Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson, Ariz., and will be a freshman for Pepperdine in the 2010-11 season.
"Jan can get the ball and score with his back to the basket," Asbury said. "He's got a good feel for the game. He's a better athlete than his body shows. With the low post offensive production we've had, he could be a featured player. We'll see him come in and play as a freshman. He'll be a big contributor, we just don't know how soon. He's a smart kid and a very serious student, and he fits in well with the other players we've got."
Maehlen bears a certain resemblance to former Santa Clara big man and 2009 West Coast Conference Player of the Year John Bryant, and the Waves' coaching staff hopes that Maehlen's career can have a similar trajectory as he gets into shape.
"We hope it plays out that way," Asbury said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he gets more playing time than John Bryant did early in his career. We hope Jan is as good as we anticipate. His weight, conditioning and diet will be huge. He's a little heavier than he needs to be. He needs to lose about 25 pounds to be effective. We think he'll be at his best around 290 pounds."
Maehlen averaged around 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots for Ironwood Ridge as a senior and shot 57% from the field. His best scoring game was 29 points against Tucson High School. He was named to the Arizona Republic's 5A all-state honorable mention squad while also earning all-league and all-region first team honors. The Nighthawks went 22-9, won their league title and made the quarterfinals of Arizona's 5A Division II Tournament.
Maehlen was born in Germany but moved to Indiana with his family at the age of 8, and only after that did he begin playing the game. He attended basketball powerhouse Lawrence North High School of Indianapolis, but because of a glut of Division I prospects on that team, he spent most of his junior season on the junior varsity. Due to his father's job, his family moved to Tucson prior to his senior year.
"Jan's best days are ahead of him," Ironwood Ridge Coach Brian Peabody said. "As he keeps the weight off and gets in better shape, the sky's the limit. Being under Pepperdine's care will do him a world of good. Give him a couple of years at Pepperdine and he'll reach his potential. He's very knowledgeable, very smart, and anything you try to teach him, he picks it up. A lot of big men have trouble with that. He knows the game inside and out and he knows where to be offensively and defensively.
"He was at a really good high school (in Indiana) with nine D-1 guys in front of him and never got thrown the ball. We did exactly the opposite. We played him every minute and threw him the ball inside every time down the floor. He made great strides in a short amount of time. To see him at the beginning of the season to a few months later, you wouldn't have recognized him. He understands the game very well. The only thing holding him back right now is his conditioning."
Maehlen is looking forward to becoming a Wave. "It's the combination of everything," he said. "The coaches are great. I really liked the players I met. The facilities are nice. From an academic standpoint, it's an amazing place. So it's the combination of everything I wanted that makes this a perfect place for me. I want to be a valuable part of the team. I want to help take this team as far as it can go. I'm going to work as hard as I can to do that."
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Three of the four linebacker spots are open around inside backer Mike Mohamed, and any one of a number of players are fighting for those spots. That competition will continue into the fall.
Finding a new starting fullback and backups at wide receiver and tailback are also significant issues, but not as significant as the concerns at defensive back.
Safety Sean Cattouse needs to act as the anchor for a secondary, which is the key to the defense but which also has serious questions at both cornerback spots.
Quote To Note: “Something needs to happen. I need to play better for us to win games. (Coach Jeff Tedford) is just giving the other guys an opportunity if I don’t step up. It definitely keeps me motivated.”—QB Kevin Riley, to the Contra Costa Times, about understanding why he has to win his job again despite starting all 13 games in 2009.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
RB Trajuan Briggs—A freshman who enrolled at Cal during the winter, Briggs de-committed from USC late in the recruiting process before signing with Cal. The Bears like to use two tailbacks and the competition for the second running back behind Shane Vereen is wide open. Some say Briggs reminds them of Marshawn Lynch, but Briggs is not as big as Lynch yet.
Coach - Ron Gould
Trajuan Briggs (Fr., TB), Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson (Jr., TB), Nico Dumont (RFr., FB), Will Kapp (Jr., FB), Isi Sofele (So., TB), Eric Stevens (So., FB), John Tyndall (Jr., FB), Shane Vereen (Jr., TB), Dasarte Yarnway (RFr., TB), Langston Jackson
The Bears lost both of their 2009 backfield starters with the departures of TB Jahvid Best and FB Brian Holley but are confident they can replace the productive duo. Best started 19 of the 31 contests he competed in during three seasons at Cal. He earned a second-team All-American selection by College Football News and the second of his two first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a 2008 sophomore when he rushed for 1,580 yards (No. 2 on Cal's single-season list) and a school-record-tying 15 rushing touchdowns. He finished his career ranked tied for third on Cal's all-time list for rushing TDs (29), as well as tied for fourth in total TDs (39) and seventh in rushing yards (2,668).
Shane Vereen, who started the final four games last season after Best suffered a season-ending injury against Oregon State on Nov. 7, is most likely his heir apparent at tailback. Vereen earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors last season despite coming off the bench to spell Best for most of the season's first nine games. He finished as the team's leading rusher with 952 yards on 183 carries (5.2 ypr) and equaled Best's 12 rushing touchdowns. Vereen had a career day to lead the Bears to a Big Game win at Stanford, carrying the ball 42 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 566 yards on 108 carries after taking as the team's starter.
Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson (31 rushes, 226 yards, 1 TD) and Isi Sofele (12 rushes, 82 yards, 1 TD) saw limited action in 2009 but are expected to compete for a spot alongside Vereen for a Cal rushing attack that has traditionally shared the bulk of the workload between two tailbacks. Trajuan Briggs, Langston Jackson and Dasarte Yarnway are the team's other tailbacks this spring and should get a good look with one of Tedford's primary spring goals developing a complimentary player to Vereen. Both Briggs and Yarnway missed their respective 2009 seasons with injuries, with the early enrollee Briggs going down with an ankle injury in an early season prep game and Yarnway suffering a knee injury during training camp of his true freshmen season.
The leagues only allow two same-college players per team, and the usually high-scoring games feature very little defense, Wilson said.