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FILE -- Cal head coach Jeff Tedford is the subject of bitter and often irrational backlash, yet he has no one to blame but himself. He was too good, too quickly, and it led to absurdly inflated expectations. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)

Jeff Tedford sees and hears the messages, knows of the Internet chatter and realizes there will be more, because there always is.

Expressions of discontent, written and spoken, some constructively critical and some simply insulting, are finding the Cal football coach.

The fan base's most radical wing is ready for him to leave Berkeley.

Tedford is the subject of bitter and often irrational backlash, yet he has no one to blame but himself. He was too good, too quickly, and it led to absurdly inflated expectations.

Now that Cal again is what it was in most "good'' seasons before his arrival in 2002, it's as if his cape has been pulled away and the "S'' stripped from his chest.

The critiques come after Tedford's worst season at Cal, which happened to coincide with increasing restlessness from those who give a hoot about the program. His team was 5-7, 3-6 in the Pac-10. The Golden Bears lost four times by more than 20 and ended the season with three straight losses at Memorial Stadium, including the Big Game by 34.

This freshly concluded four-year span in which Cal was 29-22 follows a three-year span in which it was 28-9. The program that in 2006 achieved a co-championship in the Pac-10 has responded with a 17-19 conference record since.

Tedford was unimpressive this season and has not been especially brilliant since '06. His team too often struggles to score against quality opponents. Its passing game too often fails to materialize and, most galling, the Golden Bears too often lose defining games by obscene margins.

The high-speed reaction is that mediocrity has found Tedford's program and taken up residence and, therefore, he needs to go.

Though there may come a time when Tedford should go, now is not that time -- nor would it be even if there were a convenient buyout clause to avoid paying him through the length of a contract that runs through 2015.

You don't fire a coach who rides into Cal and has eight winning seasons before one losing season. Tedford, 49, is the most accomplished coach at the school since the Pappy Waldorf era ended in 1956. How can dismissal even be considered before Tedford has an opportunity to exploit the new facility he put in motion?

Athletic director Sandy Barbour has shown no such inclination, consistently supporting Tedford. It's the right move -- for now.

Yet there is hue and cry from fans on high, from those with short memories. To recap, Tedford inherited a moribund program, giving it buzz and credibility, instilling elements of pride where there were none. For the first time in Cal history, bowl games became the norm.

If Tedford is guilty of anything, it's that he created a beast without knowing how to feed it.

He got folks to care when few previously did, and now it's working against him insofar as some of those folks want him fired. They say he has taken Cal as far as he can and it's time to find a heavyweight who can, you know, raise it to the proverbial next level.

Their ambition is commendable. Their viewpoint is myopic, if not completely blind, and utterly bereft of historical perspective.

Cal is not USC or Oregon or Washington. It's not Alabama or Texas or Penn State or Ohio State. Cal never has been a football factory. It's a fabulous university with a football program that typically has precious few and very fleeting brushes with success but a great many unions with failure.

Results under Tedford this season -- his first with a losing record -- are fairly consistent with those under his seven immediate predecessors, of which only Mike White (35-30-1) and Bruce Snyder (29-24-4) left campus with a winning record.

Tedford (72-42), though, has changed the football culture in Berkeley, raising the bar and giving the program a national profile.

What he hasn't done is build on the energy of his first five seasons.

Tedford's most visible shortcomings are 1) not showing the ability to consistently motivate the Bears to play with passion; 2) not being able to consistently recruit and develop productive quarterbacks; and 3) losing the assertive edge seen during his early years on the job.

Back then, he was out to validate his bona fides. It worked. His teams responded and fans fell in love with him.

He's now is back to Square One, in need of regaining an audience that visualizes success.

He earned a grace period between now and 2013. That's Year Two of the new facility, designed to give the program a fair chance to reach its potential.

Tedford has more than earned the right to see if he can use it to his advantage. He'll deserve stinging critiques if he can't.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.