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California head coach Jeff Tedford confers with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sept. 2004. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

He owns a Super Bowl ring and is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons by an NFL quarterback, but Aaron Rodgers hasn't forgotten how it felt when his 2004 Cal football team was snubbed on bowl selection day.

"Yes, I'm still upset about it," he said.

So are most Old Blues.

Dropped from fourth to fifth in the final Bowl Championship Series standings after a 10-1 regular season in '04, the Golden Bears watched Texas accept what they expected to be their first Rose Bowl invitation since the 1958 season.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said telling his players they weren't going to Pasadena was the hardest thing he's had to do as a coach.

"Devastating," he called it.

"We've got 'em now in the Holiday Bowl. Seven years later," Rodgers said last week, alluding to the Dec. 28 bowl clash in San Diego between the Bears and Longhorns.

The question remains: Has anything changed to prevent a repeat of Cal's fate in 2004?

"I don't know," Tedford said. "I don't think so. It doesn't seem like it."

The BCS formula still involves three equal components: Two polls along with a compilation of six computer rankings.

But two pieces of the equation were tweaked after the 2004 controversy:

  • How each coach voted in the final coaches poll was made public starting in 2005. Until then it had been secret.

  • The Associated Press withdrew permission for the BCS to use its long-respected Top 25 poll as part of its formula.

    Tedford and then-Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen pressured the American Football Coaches Association, which oversees the coaches poll, to reveal how coaches voted in the final poll after Cal was dropped from fourth place to seventh on four ballots and to eighth on two others. That was enough to nudge the Bears down to fifth in the overall BCS standings.

    Hansen still doesn't know how individual coaches voted, but he said some of them were "abusive toward a deserving team."

    No one voting in the final AP poll ranked Cal lower than sixth.

    The shift in the coaches poll came after Texas coach Mack Brown openly campaigned for his team to earn a bid to one of the elite BCS games.

    "If you've got a vote, vote for us," Brown said after his team finished that regular season 10-1. "This team deserves to go to the BCS. They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about."

    A few coaches, it seems, were listening. Among those who had votes that season were Brown and his brother, Watson Brown, then the coach at Alabama-Birmingham.

    The AP then released a statement early in 2005 explaining that it did not want to give the impression that it "condones or otherwise participates in the BCS system," adding it was withdrawing its consent "to preserve its reputation for honesty and integrity."

    The BCS replaced the AP poll with the Harris Poll, primarily involving media members and former players and coaches.

    The 7-year-old controversy is a sidelight for the 2011 Cal team.

    "All the players know is that we got gypped out of playing in the Rose Bowl," said linebacker D.J. Holt, who was in the 10th grade during the controversy. "It's more the fans who have the hatred for what happened."

    Much of Cal fans' bile is directed at Brown, but the process still leaves coaches saddled with the self interests of their own team and conference.

    Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, believes the transparency of the final coaches ballot has created more accountability. Hansen agreed but said some bias is unavoidable.

    "I think most coaches slightly favor their own conference teams, but I don't see people disenfranchising other teams," he said.

    Hansen also doesn't believe coaches factor in the financial impact of the bigger-money BCS bowls when they vote. San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, who has had a vote the past two seasons, agreed that coaches are less concerned with athletic department budgets than they are with conference rivalries and coaching relationships.

    "I take it very seriously," MacIntyre said. "You're messing with livelihoods."

    AFCA executive director Grant Teaff, who initially defended the integrity of coaches voting in 2004, later said he understood Cal's concerns. Teaff could not be reached for comment in this story.

    This season, undefeated and top-ranked LSU was a clear choice to play in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans, with once-beaten Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford all hoping to secure the other bid.

    Alabama got the nod, and nothing in the coaches voting seemed outrageous. Hancock of the BCS chuckled while referring to an article he read that criticized Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy for not speaking out strongly enough on behalf of his team.

    "This is our world," Hancock said. "People were getting on Mack (Brown) for lobbying too much, and now they're getting on Mike for not lobbying enough."

    Bay Area News Group staff writer Jerry McDonald contributed to this report.

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