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ERECTING MEMORIAL STADIUM IN 1923 WAS A GAMBLE. THE U.S. Geological Survey once called the Hayward Fault, the rift atop which the Beaux Arts arena sits, a "tectonic time bomb." The ticking was obvious in 89 years' worth of cracked concrete walls and chipped paint. It's why Cal doubled down in 2011, closing its home field for the season while engineering a series of earthquake-proofing upgrades at a cost of more than 320 times that of the original design's $1 million. The 63,000-seat facility will be ready—"barring some kind of natural disaster," says athletic director Sandy Barbour—when the season opens on Sept. 1.
Barbour didn't say anything about its tenants. A series of seismic off-season changes has rattled them to their core. There was the loss of 15 starters, including departures to the NFL of linebacker and conference defensive player of the year Mychal Kendricks, record-stalking receiver Marvin Jones and high-scoring Milanese placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio. But most buckling was the defection of defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, a former Bears letterman turned the program's best pitchman, to conference rival Washington. With him went a recruiting haul that one scouting expert had heralded as a "class of the ages."
Resettling this team will be the biggest challenge of coach Jeff Tedford's decadelong tenure. He must coax more consistency out of quarterback Zach Maynard, streaky during his redshirt junior year (57.0 completion percentage). Tedford must push his ball-hawking corners, junior Steve Williams and senior Marc Anthony, to turn their pass breakups (a combined 23 in '11) into interceptions. "We let a couple of games get to us," says Anthony of a wobbly midseason stretch of four losses in five weeks, "but we will bounce back and show what type of defense we really are."
But most of all, Tedford must get back to who he really is—a shot-caller in the Cal tradition, unafraid to go all in. The Bears haven't won a conference title outright or appeared in a BCS bowl under his stewardship. An expensively revamped stadium only increases the pressure on the coach. If another shaky midseason keeps Cal from meeting mounting expectations, the Bears might be forced to start another remodeling project—and Tedford could be the first item replaced.
COACH Jeff Tedford (11th year) 79--48 (48--38 in Pac-12)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Jim Michalczik
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Clancy Pendergast
2011 RECORD 7--6 (4--5, 4th in Pac-12 North)