Click photo to enlarge
California Golden Bears head coach Jeff Tedford watches from the sidelines as his team plays the Oregon Ducks in the second quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

jwilner@mercurynews.com

BERKELEY -- Hours after Sandy Barbour dismissed Jeff Tedford — a decision she called "excruciating'' -- the Cal athletic director sketched the outline of the Bears' next football coach.

Barbour said Tuesday she wants "a builder -- a team builder, a staff builder, a character builder. Someone who's innovative, who understands the importance of academics, who has a strong vision for the program."

Then she paused.

"Football's not at the top of the list. We want a high level of football expertise, but other things are important to be successful here."

With that model in mind, Barbour will immerse herself in the most important hire of her eight-year tenure -- someone to recharge a team that just completed a 3-9 season and failed to qualify for a bowl for the second time in three years.

"After a season like we had, really the only way you can approach it is you can only get better from here," Cal linebacker Nick Forbes said. "Dealing with those trials we went through, dealing with those obstacles, you have to look for the light in a situation."

Barbour plans to move "as quickly as we possibly can" but declined to give a time frame for the hire.

She has retained the executive search firm DHR International, which helped Stanford identify Jim Harbaugh and San Jose State find Mike MacIntyre. But ultimately, the decision will rest with Barbour, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and a select few.

Whether Cal lands an A-list candidate like Boise State's Chris Petersen remains to be seen.

The Bears could pursue a hot head coach from outside the six major conferences, like Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter, Utah State's Gary Andersen or San Jose State's MacIntyre.

Or they could consider a well-regarded assistant like UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone or Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

Or they could look to the NFL, perhaps for 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman or ex-Raiders coach Hue Jackson.

"We just want a good coach," offensive lineman Jordan Rigsbee said. "Coach Tedford was a great coach as far as personality and things like that. We just want to win. We want the best opportunity to win."

The hire will depend, in large part, on what Cal has to offer.

The Bears have upgraded their facilities with a new training center and a renovated stadium, but those moves simply put them on equal footing with Pac-12 peers.

Their next challenge is to pay competitive rates for assistant coaches. That won't be easy given the resources available at North division rivals Oregon, Washington and Stanford.

Barbour said the Bears are intent on being competitive in the marketplace. But the salary pool for coaches must come from athletic department revenue — no state money or student fees can be used.

The Bears received interest in Tedford's position "long before the job was open," Barbour said with a hint of disgust. She added: "It's a great job that was made better by Jeff Tedford."

Tedford took over a program that was coming off a 1-10 season and, within three years, turned the Bears into a top-10 program.

But his success waned in the later years, largely due to erratic quarterback play and unusually high staff turnover.

They missed the postseason in 2010, sputtered to seven wins last year and cratered this fall. Derailed by injuries and a porous offensive line, they lost their final five games to finish 3-9 -- their worst record of Tedford's tenure.

In addition, their Graduation Success Rate, an important measure of academic performance, was 48 percent -- lowest in the Pac-12 Conference.

Barbour spent two days discussing the direction of the program with Tedford, then fired the winningest coach in Cal's modern era Tuesday morning.

When Tedford, 51, informed the team of his dismissal, the players gave him a standing ovation.

"We're all saddened by it but ... it's hard to talk about," guard Geoff Gibson said. "We all were really emotional. Coach Tedford is a great man. But at end of the day, the decision came from above our head. Obviously, the university decided to go a different way."

  • Barbour said that a settlement with Tedford "is in the works."

    Tedford earns $2.3 million per year and has three years left on a contract with no buyout clause.

  • Five assistant coaches have been retained during the transition:

    Running backs coach Ron Gould, receivers coach Wes Chandler, secondary coach Ashley Ambrose, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.

    Bay Area News Group staff writer Joe Stiglich contributed to this report.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.