Cal Bears and the Disgrace of 2004 BCS Snub


Cal Bears football heads to Austin this Saturday for a showdown with the Texas Longhorns.

What most younger Cal fans don’t realize is how this game means much more than putting their 2-0 record on the line. As a Rose Bowl starved Cal fan, reaching the Grand Daddy of all bowl games is an unfulfilled dream that should have been realized 11 years ago.

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ESPN Pac 12 writer Ted Miller wrote a great piece about the enmity that still exists from Cal losing out on a Rose Bowl bid in 2004 to Texas. Then coach Mack Brown publicly vouched for his Longhorns to be launched into a top 4 BCS spot, and the ploy worked.

It still burns and resonates in my memory hearing Brown beg for votes. I personally thought it was fine to talk up your own team’s achievements, but to question other teams’ accomplishments was where I felt he crossed the line.

“This team deserves to go to the BCS,” Brown said. This is where he should have stopped.  “They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about.” I didn’t, and many other Cal fans, definitely did not like this latter statement.

In life, there are plenty of times we “deserve” things, but don’t always get what we deserve. Texas should have received this fate but they lucked out narrowly, to the tune of .0129 points better than Cal in the final BCS standings to determine bowl matchups. My blood is boiling writing this.

Cal was ranked higher than Texas for the last eight weeks of the coaches poll. In the final month, where neither team lost a game, Cal was up by as many as 89 votes for the fourth and fifth spots. In the final coaches’ poll, Texas closed the gap to just five votes. Inexplicably, as pointed out in Miller’s article, several coaches had Cal as low as eighth in their final voting.

Both teams had just one loss on their resumes. Cal lost 23-17 in a memorable game to #1 USC, with the latter needing a goal line stand at the end of the game to secure the win. Texas lost 12-0 to #2 Oklahoma. For a team that had trailed Cal in the polls since Week 4, there was nothing that proved they were more deserving than Cal to all of a sudden leapfrog them in the final poll.

With Texas going to the Rose Bowl, Cal was relegated to the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, which ironically had Cal head coach Sonny Dykes on the coaching staff. The Bears would go on to a disappointing defeat to the Red Raiders and many pointed to that loss as confirmation that Cal did not belong in the BCS.

Although I certainly understood why people would make that conclusion, I felt like it should have never gotten to that point. We should never be given the benefit of hindsight in that situation, and Cal’s resume was worthy of going to a BCS game and it’s first Rose Bowl trip in 45 years. Instead, you have bitter Cal fans like myself still waiting for that magical day that we can end this lengthy drought.

What exacerbated my ire even more was how then Cal coach Jeff Tedford had no issue with Brown’s begging of votes. Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers pretty much summed up Cal fans’ feelings seven years after the snub in a Holiday Bowl matchup between Cal and Texas. “Yes, I’m still upset about it.”

And so am I. Here’s to this Saturday and hoping that Jared Goff can simultaneously soothe the anger of an older Cal fan base and stay undefeated in 2015.

Next: Jared Goff Getting Lots of Love Both Locally and Nationally