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By Kevin Hampton
Jim Michalczik thought he was set at Oregon State. Michalczik, an assistant football coach for the Beavers, had just moved his family into a new house that September in 2001. The Beavers won the Fiesta Bowl the season before and coach Dennis Erickson had turned down some lucrative job offers from Arizona State and USC. Michalczik figured he would be staying around for years to come. After the season, he got on a plane in Eugene, heading to the Bay Area on a recruiting trip. On the plane was Jeff Tedford, on his way to accept the head coach position at California. The two coaches knew each other when Michalczik was at Montana State and Tedford was at Fresno State. They recruited the same areas and ran similar offenses, so they got together to talk football every now and then. They talked on the flight and Tedford wound up asking Michalczik if he would be interested in taking over as the Golden Bears’ offensive line coach. It was a big opportunity for Michalczik, who was helping Gregg Smith with the OSU offensive line as well as working with tight ends and serving as the special teams coordinator.
“He thought I was pretty happy at Oregon State and I was,” Michalczik said. “It was one those things where I just ran into somebody and it was a pretty good deal.” Michalczik decided to make the move. He played under Erickson at Washington State and was a member of his staff at Miami and OSU. “Coming to Cal gave me a chance in some ways to leave the nest,” Michalczik said. “I knew Jeff Tedford and I knew we’d be successful here, but it was tough to leave.” When Michalczik arrived in Corvallis in 1999, the Beavers were on the brink of turning around a 28-year losing streak. He helped Erickson do the job, as the Beavers went 7-5 including a loss to Hawaii in the Oahu Bowl. “You have certain things in coaching that you never forget,” Michalczik said. “I know it sounds silly, but winning that sixth game was the biggest thing we accomplished. Just seeing the joy on people’s faces and the jubilation.”
The next year, the team finished 11-1, routed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 4 in the country. Cal, meanwhile, had hit rock bottom. The Golden Bears were 0-11 in ’99 (NOTE FROM BLOG EDITOR: THE 0-11 RECORD WAS DUE TO FORFEITURE FOR VIOLATIONS UNDER HOLMOE – THE ACTUAL RECORD WAS 4-7), 3-8 in 2000 and 1-10 in 2001. Then Tedford took over. Michalczik knew the Bay Area and California as a whole was a fertile recruiting area, and Cal just needed the right combination of talent and coaching to start winning. He saw the same potential for success he experienced at Oregon State. “I think a lot of it was that we were fortunate to have good players, but a lot of it was just the attitude the players have going into the games,” he said. “It’s a process to get them to believe that they can succeed. That was the biggest thing when I came to Cal, was that we were starting over almost in a worse spot.”
It didn’t take long. The Golden Bears went 7-5 in 2002 and 8-6 in ’03, before hitting their stride with a 10-2 season in ’04, 8-4 in ’05 and 10-3 last season, capped with a win over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. Michalczik took over as offensive coordinator in the offseason and is still working with the linemen. Offensive tackle Mike Tepper said Michalczik brings a strong work ethic to his job and it rubs off on the players. “He works us hard and the things he works us on, they work, so we believe in him,” Tepper said. “He pushes us to be great individuals on and off the field.” The Golden Bears are 5-0 this season and have hit No. 2 in the polls going into Saturday’s game against Oregon State. A BCS bowl berth looks promising. Michalczik said there are similarities to the Beavers’ Fiesta Bowl season. The Beavers barely got past Eastern Washington and New Mexico and lost to Washington, but were constantly in building mode. “We got better each week,” he said. “By the time we got to the Fiesta Bowl, I don’t care who we would have played. If there were playoffs, we would have won it all.