DANVILLE -- Jeff Tedford believes athletic director Sandy Barbour already had decided to fire him as Cal football coach before the Bears' 3-9 season ended with a 62-14 loss at Oregon State.
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper -- the only one Tedford has given since being dismissed on Nov. 20 -- the deposed coach said there was almost no give-and-take during a 30-minute meeting with Barbour the day after the season finale.
"Her decision had been made, and there wasn't really anything I could say," Tedford said.
Barbour met with Cal's administration afterward, held a conference call with Tedford and chancellor Robert Birgeneau a day later and gave him her decision.
"It was very cut and dried. No explanations," he said. "After it was all said and done, I think their minds were made up a couple weeks before."
Barbour said she did not finalize plans until after a series of meetings with Tedford and the administration after the season. "That's ultimately when the decision was made," she said.
Tedford said he doesn't believe Barbour made the decision on her own. "I think the chancellor had a lot to say about it," he said.
Barbour offered no argument.
The winningest coach in Cal history, Tedford displayed no lingering bitterness after working 11 years at the university. He believes the program's poor recent academic record was a factor in his firing and acknowledged his responsibility.
"I didn't do everything right," he said. "Made some mistakes. But always with great intentions."
Tedford and his wife, Donna, just returned from a 10-day trip to New Zealand. They have moved to Reno and are in the process of selling their home in Danville.
He said he plans to take this next season off, then hopes to coach again. Tedford received a $5.55 million settlement for the remaining three years on his contract.
"I do feel relaxed, and yes I do have the itch," he said. "There was a transition there that was a little difficult. It's almost like detox.
"I feel like I'm much more at ease now. I'm not as tense. This whole thing is going to give me a chance to reflect on things I can do better and differently."
Tedford on other topics:
Tedford said -- and Barbour agreed -- that a big issue was players leaving midway through their senior year, sometimes to prepare for the NFL draft, and never returning to complete their degree. "It was not a matter of football players flunking out," Barbour said.
Tedford hired a person last fall to help bring former players back to finish their school work but said he could have used perhaps two more people on the academic staff. "There seemed to always be a stumbling block financially," he said.
Barbour said from the time she was hired in 2004 until Tedford was let go, the academic support staff for football was tripled in size.
Tedford said he told Maynard at the start of the summer he would be held out of the game entirely but was given the chance to earn back playing time.
"When I set down the standard for what he needed to do and he stumbled on one of them, then that's that. That was a piece of discipline," Tedford said. "It's funny how people want discipline, but when you discipline it's not the right thing."
"When you have an Aaron Rodgers ... (you) come to find out, he's the best in the game and you get spoiled with him," Tedford said. "The inconsistency -- I don't want to put it all on the quarterback -- is the difference between a seven-win season or a 10-win season."
"It just had a real eerie feeling," Tedford said. "We had just played in the Holiday Bowl, lost to Texas. Didn't play well, that's for sure. Then all of a sudden, everything turned negative for whatever reason. I think the ultimate thing was the injury piece. ... It was devastating to us."
Now that he has put some distance between himself and the disappointment of this season, Tedford said he will have mostly fond memories of his time at Cal.
"There were so many good experiences. The great games, the great players, the great achievements we've had."