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UC Berkeley football head coach Jeff Tedford patrols the field in the new Memorial Stadium as his team has its first practice in the renovated stadium in Berkeley, Calif. on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

BERKELEY -- On a recent airline flight, Cal football coach Jeff Tedford found himself sitting alongside the owner of a Minnesota pancake house, discussing social media and its role in modern business.

"If somebody gets on Twitter and bad-mouths their pancakes because they were cold," Tedford said, "they have to manage their brand."

For Tedford, it was a cold recruiting trail -- not cold pancakes -- that convinced him and the athletic department to hire someone to manage social media for the football program.

On recruit signing day last Feb. 1, Tedford conceded he and his staff needed to sharpen their social-media skills after several top recruits -- who had given Cal oral indications they would sign -- stopped communicating through traditional avenues and wound up going to other schools.

Assistant coach and top recruiter Tosh Lupoi had just bolted for a job at Washington, and with him went much of the Bears' Facebook and Twitter acumen.

"It's just a different day and age," Tedford said at the time. "I've never seen such a time where a 17- or 18-year-old can get up and type four words in the morning, hit 'send' and everyone goes into a tailspin."

The Bears wound up with a very solid recruiting class but also responded by hiring a director of football social media.

Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said being on board with social media is "non-negotiable" these days.

"It's not like we had our head buried in the sand by any means," Tedford said recently. "But to monitor that 24 hours a day, no one has time for that -- especially me -- unless you can specifically have someone who that's their role.

"You learn that's the way of the world. That's how people communicate. That's how news travels. So you need to have someone who's staying up on it all the time."

Enter Delaney Gallagher, 29, who came to Cal after utilizing social media tools in previous positions working in the construction industry and part-time for a baseball agent.

Gallagher also will handle Cal's football alumni relations, but the bulk of his time is devoted to monitoring Facebook and Twitter for anything related to Cal football -- and especially recruiting.

"I'm on there all day, from the moment I get in, to the moment I go to bed. It's part of the job. It's a necessity," Gallagher said. "What makes social media so valuable (is) it relates to the way recruiting is right now."

Both with their fan base and potential recruits, Barbour said, the Bears realized, "We had to go to them."

If Tedford wasn't conversant on Twitter last recruiting season, his wife, Donna, was hooked, "just kind of dangling from every little message that was on there.

"It can drive you crazy," Tedford said. "She would tell me what was going on. Some of it was true and some of it was false, so you kind of have to weed through the material. But it's out there."

It's now Gallagher's job to deliver Cal's digital message and to track the recruiting chatter and loop Tedford and his staff into anything relevant. When a hotshot recruit tweets his latest thought, Gallagher makes sure the coaching staff is armed with the information.

He's also given the coaches what he calls Twitter and Facebook 101 courses, making sure they are comfortable with the new media and understand how to best utilize them. "We've made it a priority," Gallagher said.

Tedford, whose Twitter account (@CoachTedford) has 5,779 followers, said Gallagher handles some of his tweets. Others, he promised, come directly from his fingertips.

Senior defensive back Josh Hill is proud of his coach for engaging in modern digital communication. "Got to get those old guys up to scale," Hill said. "I know it's hard for them at times, but they've got to do it."

Barbour also is pleased with Tedford's response to the changes. "Jeff absolutely has embraced it," she said. "It doesn't mean it's his favorite thing to do, but he understands the value."

While Twitter is primarily a monitoring tool for recruiting, coaches are allowed to contact prospects through direct messaging on Facebook during certain times of the year. Otherwise, the basic recruiting rules apply: "You can't publicly acknowledge a kid," Gallagher said.