Cal OC faces off against former WSU teammates

AFTER TWO DECADES in coaching, Jim Michalczik knows better than to drop his guard and show even a hint of empathy for the opposition. Once a year, however, Michalczik fails miserably. The offensive coordinator and o-line coach of the California Golden Bears maintains contact with many of his former Washington State teammates, two of whom will be on the opposing sideline Saturday night in Berkeley.

Michalczik (pronounced Muh-HALL-check), a Port Angeles High graduate, starred on the 1988 Cougars with Timm Rosenbach and Steve Broussard. Rosenbach is now the quarterbacks coach of the Cougars, and Broussard coaches the running backs.

"The neat thing about it is, we're all still friends," Michalczik said in a phone interview Tuesday evening. "I think we've got that bond; we'll be friends to the grave."

The 1988 Cougars were memorable on the field -- they beat top-ranked UCLA en route to a 9-3 season and an Aloha Bowl victory -- and Michalczik said his teammates were memorable off the field, too.

"It was one of those special years where everyone got along," Michalczik said. "Guys from a lot of different walks of life."

That involved a lot of, uh, socializing after games.

"We did a lot of group studying," Michalczik deadpanned.

Michalczik said he still loves to give Broussard grief for being injured and missing one of the greatest wins in WSU history. On Oct. 29, 1988, the Cougars recorded the only victory in school history over a top-ranked team when coach Dennis Erickson's unranked squad shocked UCLA 34-30 in Pasadena.

"What was neat was the reception we got when we landed at the airport in Spokane," Michalczik said. "Usually, we'd just go through the terminal and get on the bus.

"That time, there were a lot of people there to greet us in the airport. Then we got a great reception when we got back in Pullman."

Michalczik was an honorable mention All-American offensive guard in '88, the last of Erickson's two seasons at WSU. After a failed bid to make the NFL's Arizona Cardinals as a free agent, Michalczik started his coaching career as a graduate assistant defensive line coach under Erickson at Miami in 1990.

After Miami captured the 1991 national championship, Erickson helped Michalczik land the offensive line coaching job at Montana State, Erickson's alma mater. Michalczik remained in Bozeman before rejoining Erickson at Oregon State in 1999.

"I owe him a ton," Michalczik said.

Michalczik left Erickson to follow ex-Oregon assistant Jeff Tedford to California in 2002. They arrived to find the program in shambles after a 1-10 season.

"I'm not going to say there was no talent here when we got here," Michalczik said. "We had to kind of boost their confidence. We had to really pull the team together."

The result: five straight winning seasons, four straight bowl games and three straight Top 25 finishes. The Bears started 5-0 this year and soared to No. 2 in the nation, but they fell out of the Top 25 this week after losing three in a row.

"We're just trying to get back on track with little things," Michalczik said. "Little things become big things … in our case, you can't point to one thing.

"You point to one thing on one play, one thing on the next play, one thing on the next play. We've got to get better group execution."

If the Bears fail, it certainly would not appear to be due to a lack of effort from the coaching staff. Tedford works such long hours that he routinely spends the night sleeping in his office, and Michalczik and other assistants often do the same.

"We camp out every now and then," Michalczik said with a laugh.

Tedford calls the plays for Cal's high-powered offense, but Michalczik exchanged his assistant head coach title for offensive coordinator this year while continuing to coach the offensive line. Michalczik, 41, said he "wouldn't mind" becoming a head coach at some point, but he dodged questions about any interest he might have in the WSU head coaching job if embattled Bill Doba is fired.

"You hate talking about that," Michalczik said.

The names of Michalczik and Cal offensive coordinator Bob Gregory (a Spokane native who played for the Cougars) have come up amongst fans in discussions of possible successors to Doba.

"He's a great coach and a great man … except this week," Michalczik joked.


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