The California football program has regained the full support of its most famous alumnus.
The Bears on Tuesday announced a “seven-figure gift” from quarterback Aaron Rodgers that will be used to renovate the locker room and create the Aaron Rodgers Football Scholarship.
Specifics of the gift were not disclosed. The renovation is expected to be completed in time for the 2019 season, according to the school, and will be renamed the Aaron Rodgers Team Locker Room.
”I’m pleased and proud to make this gift to support Cal football,” Rodgers said in a news release.
“My years at Cal were among the best years of my life. My time in Berkeley created lasting, unforgettable memories. Coach (Justin) Wilcox was on the coaching staff when I was a Bear, and I am excited about the team’s direction with Justin pointing the way.
“He is a tremendous football coach and an even better role model for his players. I hope that my contribution can help him move this program forward.”
Rodgers played for Cal in 2003-04, under coach Jeff Tedford, before beginning an NFL career with the Packers that will land him in the Hall of Fame.
Tedford and Rodgers produced one of the greatest teams in school history, but the ’04 Bears finished second in the conference after losing a game for the ages to USC, which went on to win the national championship.
But Rodgers’ relationship with the Bears appeared to deteriorate when Tedford was fired after the 2012 season.
On his radio show in Green Bay, Rodgers called it “a terrible decision, terrible decision. And I think it’s disrespectful, too.”
He explained that Tedford was given just one season to recruit to Cal’s renovated football facility:
“Coach Tedford endured some pretty difficult situations down there while his competitors — Oregon, Washington, Arizona schools — continued to improve their facilities.
“Now, you get some facilities in there, you get a new stadium, you get an awesome new top deck over there that can overlook the (San Francisco) Bay, you get a 100-yard weight room. You have some competitive facilities now where you can really recruit some kids. And what do they do? They fire him. The winningest coach in history. It’s just a shame.”
Rodgers’ unusual path to superstardom left him deeply indebted to Tedford.
He had no major college scholarship offers as a senior at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico and considered becoming a lawyer. (Matlock, with Andy Griffith, was one of his favorite shows.)
Rodgers played one year at Butte College and was spotted by Tedford during the recruitment of Butte tight end Garrett Cross.
Rodgers spent two years in Berkeley, which overlapped with Wilcox’s time as the linebackers coach.
For a time, Rodgers insisted on being introduced on TV broadcasts as a Butte College alum, although it’s unclear whether that was because of frustration with Cal for dismissing Tedford or simply a desire to thank Butte for giving him a chance.
Rodgers’ scholarship gift — also in his name — will be given annually to a junior-college transfer.
“We are thrilled and grateful that Aaron is making this important investment in the Cal football program,” Wilcox said.
“Aaron’s gift will help provide our student-athletes with a tremendous place to gather and prepare for all our football-related activities.
“It will also be great to show recruits visiting our campus a top-notch space and the level of support our program has from one of the greatest to ever play the game.”
The Bears also announced a six-figure donation to the locker room project from Dr. Paul White, an expert in ambulatory anesthesia and the brother of former Bears All-American Ed White.