After all Jeff Tedford did for Cal, from immediately raising its national profile to the frequent trips to bowl games to creating a pipeline to the NFL, his dismissal was not a sign that he has lost a step.
It was more of a statement about the speed other coaches and schools have gained.
Tedford is a good coach and an excellent man who was caught in a time and place where he no longer could pedal fast enough.
Nine Pac-12 teams own winning records and none of them is Cal. Six teams within the conference entered last weekend in the Top 25 and none of them was Cal.
Then there were the games. There was UCLA, with its shiny new head coach, punishing mighty USC. And Washington, with its renewed commitment to building a powerhouse, blasting Colorado by 35. And there was Arizona, with its shiny new coach, going to Utah to put away a team that beat Cal by 22.
And, of course, there was hated enemy Stanford, with its highly skilled but still underrated head coach, finally climbing the great wall of Oregon — in Eugene.
And there was Cal, getting walloped by an Oregon State program that under coach Mike Riley is one of the nation's great models of overachievement.
And, pointedly, there was Tedford, a former quarterback who specializes in coaching the position, standing on the sideline as his Golden Bears were victimized by Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion, who attended high school in Pleasanton, a few short miles from the Tedford home.
The awful irony is that Tedford might have kept his job at Cal if he had recruited and developed someone like Mannion, the Foothill High product who burned the Bears with four first-half touchdown throws.
So much overall improvement has been on display during this Pac-12 season, so much commitment to raising the competitive level, almost across the board. After so many years watching USC and Oregon dominate the conference, greater parity has arrived.
Tedford's Bears suddenly appeared to be left out on the action.
With a new facility in Berkeley, built almost entirely on the momentum and excitement generated during Tedford's impressive first few seasons, Cal is unwilling to convey the message that it is willing to sit idly as its program grows increasingly stale and incapable.
There was some sentiment to give Tedford one more season in the house that his program built; overall costs will approach $500 million. The coach might have gotten at least one more year if the Golden Bears had been able to post a .500 record. If only there was the slightest sign that next season would be any better than the past three.
Instead, the Bears whimpered out by losing five consecutive games, three by more than three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, there was the distressing news last month that the football graduation rates had declined steeply enough to join Arizona at the bottom of the Pac-12 rankings.
There is a level of embarrassment or shame that these things could happen on the watch of a coach with a $2.3 million annual salary.
Cal has to find ways to pay for the facility, and nothing fills seats and generates revenue faster than a winning program. The school will seek a popular, outgoing coach who has the ability to massage the alumni.
And those graduation rates had better rise, too.
So closes the door on the Tedford era, the most successful in the school's modern history. That wasn't enough. Not any more. Not with that success old enough to gather dust.