The once-chilly relationship between Cal and its most famous football alum has warmed up again.
Aaron Rogers, who seemed to disassociate himself from the program after his former coach, Jeff Tedford was fired in 2012, has made a “seven-figure gift: that will allow Cal to renovate its football locker room.
The rebuilt locker room will be complete in time for the 2019 season and will become known as the Aaron Rodgers Team Locker Room.
The donation also will create the Aaron Rodgers Football Scholarship.
The arrival two years ago of new coach Justin Wilcox, with whom Rodgers has a relationship, has brought the Green Bay Packers quarterback and the football program back together.
"I'm pleased and proud to make this gift to support Cal football," Rodgers said in a statement. "My years at Cal were among the best years of my life. My time in Berkeley created lasting, unforgettable memories.
“Coach 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.”
Cal said that the Aaron Rodgers Football Scholarship will be awarded each year to a junior college transfer. Rodgers was a JC transfer to Cal after playing one season at Butte College.
After Cal fired Tedford, Rodgers called it “a terrible decision” and “disrespectful.”
He was critical of Cal for dismissing Tedford, the school’s all-time winningest football coach, without giving him ample opportunity to recruit after the Memorial Stadium renovation.
The Bears hired Sonny Dykes, whose teams displayed high-powered offenses (led by Jared Goff) but virtually no defense. Dykes was fired after going 19-30 in four seasons.
Wilcox is 11-11-1 through his first two years and has re-established Cal’s defense as one of the best in the Pac-12.
"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."
Current Bears quarterback Chase Garbers called Rodgers’ contribution “an absolute blessing.”
"For a man who will go down as one of the greatest football players to ever play the game to make a contribution to our program of this magnitude is incredible,” Garbers said. “As Cal student-athletes we are so thankful for what he is doing. The support he is showing is inspiring. It is an absolute thrill to have a former Cal player like Aaron, a guy who we as current players look up to so much, invest in our program.”
Athletic director Jim Knowlton praised Rodgers’ gift and said he hopes it will inspire others.
"Aaron Rodgers is one of the most exceptional players in the history of our football program and among the most recognizable names in the world," Knowlton said. "We are tremendously proud of Aaron and grateful that he is providing this level of support to our football program.”
Rodgers played two seasons at Cal, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2004, when he helped orchestrate a 10-2 season. He has become one of the NFL’s best-ever passers, leading the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title and twice winning league MVP honors.
Dr. Paul F. White '68, an internationally recognized expert in ambulatory anesthesia and pain management, also made a six-figure gift to the project.
“I’d also like to extend a thank you to Paul White, whose long-time support for Cal Athletics has enabled us to expand opportunities for student-athletes in countless ways,” Knowlton said.
White and his wife, Linda, have donated to numerous other projects benefiting Golden Bear student-athletes, including the renovation of California Memorial Stadium and the establishment of the Paul F. White Sports Medicine Complex at Haas Pavilion.
White is the brother of former Cal football All-American and College Football Hall of Famer Ed White.