Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oakland Tribune: Will renovation delay cause Tedford to bolt?


University of California coach Jeff Tedford watches a replay of a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. on Thursday, December 28, 2006. The Bears beat the Aggies 45-10. (Dan Honda/STAFF FILE) An Alameda County judge's preliminary injunction has halted Cal's Memorial Stadium renovation project.   What Cal football fans want to know is, what the injunction — and the construction delays it could cause — means to coach Jeff Tedford's future in Berkeley.  Tedford recently agreed to a contract extension through 2013, but the deal is awaiting approval of the UC Regents and has not been signed.

Tedford has stated numerous times that Cal must upgrade its facilities to remain an elite program.   The first phase of the Memorial Stadium renovation project — construction of a $125 million training center along the west side of the stadium — is considered essential to the future success of Cal football and to keeping Tedford happy.  Cal had hoped to break ground on the training center this spring. The injunction, issued Monday, means construction — expected to take two years — could be delayed until next winter, if not forever.  Tedford did not comment Monday, and his Walnut Creek-based agent, Mike Sullivan, did not return a phone call.  "I'm sure coach Tedford is equally disappointed in the decision," said Cal vice chancellor Nathan Brostrom, who oversees athletics. "His disappointment ... is mirrored by other coaches."   The second phase of the renovation project — an earthquake retrofitting of the stadium, which sits on the Hayward fault — is many years and hundreds of millions of dollars away.

Cal has raised approximately $100 million for the training center, which was approved by the UC Board of Regents in December.  But neighborhood and environmental groups are trying to block the construction. To protest the planned destruction of several dozen oaks, activists have been living in trees for almost two months. Opponents of the project also have raised seismic concerns.  Three groups filed lawsuits: the Panoramic Hill Association of Berkeley, the California Oaks Foundation of Oakland and the city of Berkeley.  Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller ruled Monday that their objections were strong enough to justify a preliminary injunction until a trial can be held. Cal has not decided whether it will appeal.  "I think it ill befits this university to chop down its cathedrals in order to promote a student gym," attorney Stephan Volker of the California Oaks Foundation told the Associated Press.  Brostrom, the vice chancellor, called the injunction a "temporary setback" and said the university will proceed with the bid process and preliminary site work so that it can avoid delays if Cal wins in court.  The university's attorney, Charles Olson, said that a trial could start "no later than June."   The Bears had hoped to open the performance center in the spring of 2009, but the injunction means the project might not start until next winter — pushing the opening back a year. The delay could add $10 million to the cost, Brostrom said.   "We're certainly disappointed that the judge has chosen to grant an injunction in this case," athletic director Sandy Barbour said in a statement. "The campus has done tremendous work — very thorough work — in regards to the seismic issues and the environmental impact of this project.  "I'm confident that in the end we will prevail on the merits of this case."   Barbour did not address Tedford's future.  When asked about the injunction's impact on Tedford's future, Janet Gilmore of Cal's public-affairs office said simply that the athletic department is "optimistic" that situation will be resolved in Cal's favor.  Tedford's existing contract calls for a $300,000 annual buyout — the amount he would owe the school for leaving before the deal ends in 2009.  But until the Cal breaks ground on the stadium project, the buyout is only $150,000 annually.


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