California Golden Bears: Pappy Waldorf Era(1947-1956)
The University of California-Berkley is another tough one to decide. While the Golden Bears have been far from consistently relevant, they have had three eras that I was considering. To start, you have the Golden Bear's dominance during the infancy of the sport. From 1916 to 1925, under head coach Andy Smith, Cal won two National Championships in 1920 and 1922. They also made two trips to the Rose Bowl and went undefeated for five straight years from 1920 to 1924. However, I didn't pick this era simply because the AP Polls didn't come to fruition yet and these years are so far gone that not much information is out on them.
The second era I was considering was the Jeff Tedford years from 2002 to 2012. While Tedford's tenure was successful, Cal only had two 10-win seasons and only had one top-10 finish. The biggest bowl game they played in during that stretch was the Holiday Bowl, which they played in 2004, 2006, and 2011.
So, the winner for me is the Pappy Waldorf era from 1947 to 1956. Waldorf is considered by many Cal enthusiasts to be the greatest coach in program history. During this stretch, the Golden Bears were ranked in the AP Polls for every week, starting from the 1947 preseason to October 27, 1952. Just to note, this was when the Associated Press only ranked 20 teams instead of the current 25 team polls we have today.
Waldorf enjoyed a .670 winning percentage during this stretch, as he won 67 of the 103 games he coached in. He only had two losing seasons in this span, which took place during the end of this tenure in 1955 and 1956. However, the height of this era is still impressive. While the 1920s squads were great, they didn't make the Rose Bowl in three straight years. Waldorf's crew did that from 1948 to 1950. Unfortunately, they lost all three. However, if they would've claimed a few national titles is they won those games.
During the 1948 to 1950 seasons, California also took home the Pacific Coast Conference titles in all three years. In 1948, Cal finished 4th with a 10-1 record. In 1949, the Golden Bears ended the season ranked 3rd with another 10-1 finish. 1950 saw California end the year with a 9-1-1 record, which was good enough for being ranked 5th. Excluding the three Rose Bowl years, Cal also ranked 15th in 1947 and 12th in 1951.