When Carolyn Pendergast used to run into Jeff and Donna Tedford at the annual Pac-10 meetings in Phoenix, she would always make a point to tell them about her brother, Clancy, who was the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.
Little did she know that, in her own way, she was helping her brother get a job.
Carolyn Pendergast used to be the director of marketing at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, where the conference meetings are held every year. Before that, she was the director of marketing for Cal's athletic department from 1998-2001 and still follows the football program.
When Jeff Tedford, Cal's coach, was doing online research for a defensive coordinator last winter, Clancy Pendergast's picture appeared on the Raiders' website.
Recalling his conversations with Carolyn Pendergast, Tedford decided to find out more about Clancy Pendergast. The more he found out, the more he liked.
Tedford hired Pendergast in February to replace longtime defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who departed for Boise State.
"That piqued my interest," Tedford said. "Just in talking, (Carolyn) mentioned that her brother was a coach for the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, when the Cardinals were on (TV), I'd watch. I wanted to talk to him to find out what the interest would be on his part. We were very interested in him."
Pendergast was the defensive coordinator in Arizona for five years, the last of which he helped the Cardinals advance to the Super Bowl after the 2008 season. He was a holdover from former coach Dennis Green's staff, and new Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt let him go just days after the Super Bowl.
Pendergast landed in Kansas City, where he was the defensive coordinator for one year before coach Todd Haley decided to bring in Romeo Crennel to replace him. That brought Pendergast to the Raiders, where he was hired as defensive backs coach.
Less than two weeks after joining the Raiders, Pendergast made the move to Berkeley.
"Obviously, Coach Tedford has built a very strong football program here," Pendergast said. "It was an opportunity to be a coordinator, and that interested me and excited me."
Who knows if Pendergast would have been a candidate to come to Cal had Tedford not met Carolyn. As soon as Gregory informed Tedford he was leaving, Tedford researched every defense in the nation, including coaches, stats, schemes, etc. He then did the same for every NFL team.
When he got to the Raiders, he was reminded of Pendergast. Tedford placed a call to Raiders coach Tom Cable to ask permission to contact him.
Pendergast was interested. The only question was whether he was as excited about the opportunity as his sister, who still comes to games at Memorial Stadium once or twice a year and has a dog named after Cal's mascot, Oski.
"When Clancy told me Coach Tedford had contacted him, I really tried to contain my excitement," Carolyn Pendergast said. "I didn't want to influence his decision at all, but the prospect of him on the sideline at Memorial Stadium was exciting. I tried to keep my cool."
Now that he has the job, Pendergast's mission is to improve a defense that ranked a disappointing 72nd last year nationally (378.85 yards per game). After last season, Tedford stressed that the defense needs to focus more on pressuring the quarterback. Pendergast is retaining Gregory's 3-4 scheme but has brought in a more aggressive philosophy.
"In any scheme, you have a base philosophy of things you want to do," Pendergast said. "My past experience has been to run a more pressure-oriented style defense. This defense has some speed, and we're trying to utilize that."
But aggression doesn't always equal success, and both Tedford and Pendergast said that Pendergast's reputation of aggression is a bit overstated. That being said, Cal can be expected to take more chances on defense than in years past.
"There's a balance there," Tedford said. "I don't want to give the impression that it's an all-out blitz on every down. It's not. There are a lot of variations to what he does."
Gregory had been Tedford's defensive coordinator ever since they arrived in Berkeley together in 2002. The coaches built a strong trust, and along the way Tedford turned over the entire defense to Gregory.
Even though Pendergast is new to the staff, Tedford already feels comfortable giving the same kind of autonomy to his new coordinator.
"Through the process of talking to him about it, you find out philosophies and things like that," Tedford said. "It's worked out well. I'm really enjoying having him on the staff. He does great with the players."