BERKELEY -- Cal's worst football season in more than a decade could impact more than coach Jeff Tedford's future and the financial well-being of the Golden Bears' athletic department.
The Bears also are taking a beating on the recruiting front, where for years they have been one of the leaders in the Pac-12 Conference.
Two major online sites that track recruiting project Cal's 2013 signing class will rank among the lower half in the Pac-12. Scout.com has Cal at No. 8 in the conference, No. 47 nationally. Rivals.com envisions a No. 9 Pac-12 rank, No. 53 nationally.
Asked how much the Bears' 3-8 record is impacting recruiting efforts, Tedford conceded, "That's always a concern."
It might get worse by signing day on Feb. 6.
"There aren't a ton of four-star guys, and really no five-star guys, who are taking a look at Cal in any serious way right now," said Adam Gorney, a recruiting specialist for Rivals.
Brandon Huffman of Scout believes there is only one realistic remedy.
"The best thing moving forward for Cal," he said, "could be a coaching change to reinvigorate recruiting. If there's a shake-up on the staff, it could change for the better. Right now, it's just kind of stagnant."
Cal has fared well during Tedford's run in Berkeley, with an average national ranking of No. 24 over the previous 10 seasons, according to Rivals. The Bears checked in at
This class could be Cal's weakest since Tedford's first season, when he had less than two months to assemble a group that was rated No. 64 nationally.
It's important to remember that recruiting projections are not always on target. Center Alex Mack was a two-star prospect when he arrived at Cal and became a first-round NFL draft choice who has started every game of his career with the Cleveland Browns. On the other hand, defensive end Chris Martin, a five-star recruit in 2010, never played at Cal and has since left two other schools.
The Bears' top two commits are quarterback Jared Goff of Marin Catholic-Kentfield and offensive lineman Cameron Hunt of Centennial-Corona -- both four-star prospects, according to Scout.
Besides their win-loss record, two factors that have hurt the Bears' recruiting efforts are the uncertainty of Tedford's status and the loss of top recruiter Tosh Lupoi to Washington last January.
"With more and more talk about Tedford's future, that scares away kids," Rivals' Gorney said.
Among the elite prospects in what is considered a strong year in Northern California, Placer defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, Lincoln-Stockton running back Justin Davis and De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings are committed to USC.
While most schools struggle to compete with USC's recruiting prowess, a difference this year is that Lupoi's Huskies have beat out the Bears for wide receiver Darrell Daniels of Freedom-Oakley and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls of Petaluma, a pair of four-star prospects.
"Traditionally, guys Cal would have never even let out of that region haven't really given them a second thought," said Huffman, suggesting Lupoi was a game-changer in that regard.
It hasn't helped Cal that UCLA, under first-year coach Jim Mora, is 8-2 and assembling a strong class.
Of course, oral commitments are nonbinding, and teenagers do change their minds. Vanderdoes, who is rated a five-star recruit by Scout, plans to take all five of his official visits despite his commitment to the Trojans. The five, according to what he has told Scout, are USC, Washington, UCLA, LSU -- and Cal.
Tedford remains confident. He said the new high-performance training center and renovated Memorial Stadium will allow the Bears to compete on even footing from a facilities standpoint.
Even the Bears' losing record provides some upside, Tedford argued. "What it also means," he said, "is there may be opportunity for people to come and play, help us win."