By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – Bud “Dog” Turner is on his 10th coach at Cal, not to mention scores of assistant coaches, support staff members and the hundreds of players that have come through the football program since he first joined the Bears’ staff in 1969.
Turner, who affectionately is just known as “Dog” to anyone who has occasion to interact with Cal’s football program in any capacity, is officially labeled as an Assistant of Football Operations for the Bears. But that title doesn’t come close to describing the myriad of roles and impact he’s had on the program for the past 44 years.
Simply put, Dog is Cal football. His good nature is infectious, his sunny disposition is unmistakable and his passion for the program is unmatched.
Want the head coaching job at Cal? You can bring in your own staff of assistant coaches and your share of support staff, for that matter. But Dog is more untouchable than any franchise player on the trade market.
“He is what you inherit when you come to work at Cal,” said Cal Assistant Athletic Director for Football Administration Andrew McGraw, who has been part of the Bears’ football staff for 15 years. “I don’t know how it’s expressed to a new coach, but it’s understood that he’s a permanent fixture here. I don’t think the thought ever crosses anyone’s mind that he wouldn’t be included. He’s a special part of the program.”
Come to a Cal football practice and you might find Dog handing out rosters or directing fans to the appropriate seating section. During years when the Bears’ practices were closed to the public, you might find Dog shooing away a practice-crasher or even climbing up Tightwad Hill to politely instruct someone they can’t be there.
Those are just some of the vastly diverse roles Dog has assumed in his 44 years with the Bears. He’s worked with the equipment managers. He’s been involved with operations. He’s simply done anything anyone remotely connected with the program has asked of him.
“He’s one of a kind,” said former Cal Director of Football Operations Mike McHugh, who now holds the same role at Fresno State. “He’s just one of those mainstays and an incredible person. Coaches have come and gone, administrators have come and gone, but Dog Turner has always been there. In his own little strange way, he’s the face of Cal football. He’s the common denominator.”
Dog grew up in nearby Lafayette and settled in the area after two stints in the Army in an airborne unit. One day in 1969, a neighbor who worked the field phones for the public address announcer at Cal home games called Dog and asked if he could help. He ended up helping for three years before assuming more responsibility with the program.
“I have the greatest job in sports,” Dog said.
For most of his professional life, Dog balanced his duties at Cal with his day job as a soil technician in Concord for Engeo Incorporated. He retired from that job 15 years ago and has been working full-time for the Bears ever since.
Dog got more involved with the program when Mike White became Cal’s head coach in 1972. White and Dog attended Acalanes High School in Lafayette together and remain friends to this day.
Dog started helping with the equipment and serving as a jack-of-all-trades in a variety of aspects with the program after White was hired. Many of the projects he worked on with Engeo were in nearby Orinda or in Berkeley, and he would come to the stadium immediately afterward each day.
When McHugh came aboard in 2003, Dog started working in operations as well.
“He’d fall asleep on my couch all the time. I’d be doing the work and he sat there and took credit for everything,” McHugh said with a laugh. “We had a great working relationship, as he does with everybody. He would do whatever is necessary on a daily basis without hesitation.”
Dog has made an impression on countless players during his years at Cal. Invariably, when former players come back to visit, one of their first orders of business is to go find Dog and give him a hug. Those relationships he develops with the student-athletes is one of the aspects of his job at Cal he relishes most.
“Right now, I’ll go sit in the locker room and just talk to kids,” Dog said. “There are kids out here that don’t have fathers. They just want to talk to somebody older that is not a coach.”
Dog’s passion and loyalty for Cal football is palpable. McGraw said he still vividly remembers Dog’s reaction when the Bears beat Washington 34-27 in 2002, ending a 26-year losing streak at Husky Stadium.
“The game ended and I sprinted back to the locker room because I had to get back to the airport to return a rental car,” McGraw said. “When I got in there, Dog was sitting on a bench by himself sobbing. He said it was one of the greatest days of his life. Right there, you understood what the program meant to him.”
Dog is 77, has been married 48 years to his wife, Joan, has three children and seven grandchildren. He is still a fixture at all Cal practices, functions, events and road trips, and has no designs of giving up any of that anytime soon.
“They’re going to have to drag me out of here,” Dog said. “Like I once told the band, when I go down finally, they’re going to play the fight song as they blow my ashes out of the cannon.”