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Cal Football

Bud "Dog" Turner: Tribute to a Sturdy Golden Bear

September 4, 2020

if there was ever a man who embodied the true spirit of what it meant to be a sturdy Golden Bear, it was Bud “Dog” Turner, who graced the Cal facilities for more than 50 years, many of those years as an unpaid volunteer who just wanted to help the program in whatever way he could.

Turner lost his battle with heart failure Friday at age 84, leaving behind wife Joanie of 55 years and several kids and grandkids who were his pride and joy.

Cal head coach Justin Wilcox began his relationship with Turner in 2002 as a young assistant at Cal and acknowledged the void he’d leave behind.

"Dog Turner was a part of Cal football for longer than many of us have been alive," said Wilcox in a statement to fans. "He was such a kind and genuine person, and I will miss the welcoming smile he gave to everyone who entered California Memorial Stadium.

“It's really hard to imagine going to lunch and not seeing him in the football offices, heading to practice and not getting a fist bump from him, or entering the locker room after a game and not seeing him standing there beaming with pride for his team.

"Dog always said, 'It's a great day to be a Bear.' Indeed it is, Dog, just not as great today. We'll miss you, pal, but we'll always remember you and love you. Go Bears."

Turner saw his first Cal game way back in 1947, when the Bears beat Navy 14-7 in front of 83,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and the love affair with Cal began.

Former Cal head coach Mike White’s friendship with Turner spanned 70 years, beginning as young players at Acalanes High in Lafayette.

White had the chance to have a last conversation with his old friend this week, something he treasured.

“I got to talk to him the day before yesterday,” said White. “It was a real blessing that we were able to talk. Even going into hospice, he kept up his spirits. He talked about how much his time at Cal meant to him. I’m so glad that he was able to be with his family in the end. It’s amazing how many people I’ve talked to in the last couple weeks who praised him for the kind of person he was and how he loved Cal. “

Bear Insider
Turner with his trademark  fist bump greeting to players, staff and fans entering Memorial Stadium

It’s been said that White was the one who brought Turner to Cal, but White set the story straight.

“He always corrected me,” said White, with a laugh. “We were classmates at Acalanes (Class of ‘54) and played football together, though he had to stop playing because of some kind of heart trouble. He actually got to Cal a year before me when I went there to play. Art Arlette, the PA guy at Cal hired Bud to be a go-fer for him and that was where he developed his love for Cal. He ended up having every job possible there over the years.”

White played for Pappy Waldorf and Pete Elliot at Cal and was one of three captains his senior season in 1957 and coached the freshman team in Cal’s Rose Bowl year in 1958 before moving over to Stanford to coach with John Ralston, Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil on their talented staff in the 60s before returning to Cal in as head coach in 1972. By that time, Turner was back in a consistent capacity in the early years of his 50-year association with the Cal football program.

“He did anything that anyone wanted and needed,” said White. “No matter when I was there, he’d pop up and grab me and fill me in on what was going on with the program. We really had a great relationship. I’m emotional about his passing. He never wanted anything from anyone, just to be a Bear.”

Turner ended up serving two terms in the military as a paratrooper before settling in at Cal to work in one capacity or another since 1970.

A younger Turner cheering his Bears on from the sidelines in the early ’80s

Assistant Athletic Director Andrew McGraw might be the longest-tenured Cal employee associated with Turner along with announcer Joe Starkey.

“It’s a super-sad day to be a Bear,” said McGraw, who began his association with the program in 1992 as an equipment manager as a student. “He was balancing his job as a soil engineer back then but being younger, he was a lot more active. He’d store uniforms, do laundry, anything they needed help with. 

“He’s one of those guys always devoted to service, first as a paratrooper. He always had a strong sense of service and duty. He never expected anything, though he was a big fan of the training table. Dog would never miss a meal. You knew it was time to eat when you saw Dog in the hallway..

A young “Dog” Turner

“When I first met Dog, I remember asking what he did. He didn’t get paid or anything but from the get-go, you could see his commitment to the program was second to none.

“He always looked out for the equipment guys and took us under his wing. I always remember him on road trips, you could count on Dog to make it a priority to get food for us and take care of us. He was always looking out for us when others might not be.

“I’ve never known the football program without him. There aren’t a lot of Cal football alums that knew Cal without him.”

Cal Hall of Fame quarterback and radio announcer Mike Pawlawski counted Turner as an essential element to the Bear program over the years.

“Dog was the absolute best,” said Pawlawski. “He was the epitome of a Cal man without even attending Cal. He was super, super proud of his association with the program. He and I used to talk about it all the time. There was a certain old saltiness to him that just set him apart. He and some of the old training staff like Bob Orr, you know they were tough guys but they had your back at all times. 

“Dog was one dude that no matter what I was doing, whether playing there or whatever I’ve been doing since, that I’d always go out of my way to talk to. He was just a special guy. Just absolutely loved the man. He was so looking forward to this season, just like he always did.

“You just had to love how he sat outside the tunnel and told everyone it’s a great day to be a Bear. It wasn’t any of that rah rah bs. It was real to him.

“People have come through that place over the years but Dog outlasted all of them, every single one of them. People who treated him well and those who didn’t. 

“There will be a hole in Cal football without him.”

Operations assistant Norman Mo and Turner have been a nearly-inseparable, though unlikely duo for the past 18 years. They met when Mo started as a student manager with the arrival of Jeff Tedford as head coach in 2002.

“We started out in the beginning giving each other as much crap as possible,” said Mo with a quiet laugh. “That’s how Dog and I were. I still remember our first day and I couldn’t throw a football for the quarterbacks to save my life. And after practice, Dog said, ‘Young man, you work really hard but you are one lousy quarterback.’ And our relationship has grown from there.

“We had our little weekly superstitions and outings, where on game day, we’d stop by 7-Eleven. He’d get his Diet Pepsi and I was younger and needed my Red Bull to pick me up on a Saturday morning. It came to a point where the cashier had seen us so often, he finally asked if I was his son. Dog laughed and said, “Yeah, he is. I was stationed abroad and saw him in one of the fields and picked him up.’ So ever since, we’ve played along, like, ‘I know I don’t look like him but he’s my dad.’

That offbeat humor endeared Dog to legions of players, fans and team employees over the years, leaving a void that is simply irreplaceable for the program.

“It’s definitely hard to lose him but there are so many great memories to dwell on,” said Mo. “I know he’s had a great impact on many people. Just how he cares about people. He’s never negative about the program and never tolerated anyone saying anything bad about the program or the players. He’d tell them they had no idea how hard these guys work.

“He was like a dad when I lost both my parents. He was the first one to call and check on me. 

“It was tough that last month in the hospital. I know he was itching to get out. We had never said ‘I love you’ over the years but on one of those last phone calls, he told me he loved me. That’s when I knew it was almost his time.

“Good old Dog.”

As a personal aside, writing for Bear Insider over the past 17 years, I had many occasions to spend time talking with Dog about family, old experiences at Cal for each of us, and the prospects for the season each year and how it would play out as we waited for practice to begin or for the media to be let in for interviews.

Dog lived and breathed Cal football and lived out his dream being associated with the program the better part of his life.

Bud “Dog” Turner in his honorary seat

He had a saying he often repeated over the years about how he’d like to go out when it was time to meet the great Oski in the sky and it’s hard to not smile thinking about it.

“Ideally, we’ll be playing SC here and be up by 30 points when I go down on the sideline. Take my ashes up and fire it out of the cannon.”

As Dog reminded us so many times over the years, the last half dozen from his stadium chair outside the North Tunnel, it’s always a great day to be a Bear; especially when remembering one of the greatest Bears of them all.


Discussion from...

Bud "Dog" Turner: Tribute to a Sturdy Golden Bear

2,600 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Bearly Clad
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Great tribute. Saddens me to think that because of coaching stints by Holmoe (great guy, lousy coach), Gilbertson, and Dykes, plus the ineptitude of Bowlsby, Bud never got his return RB trip before he passed. I believe Wilcox will remedy this issue for all of us in the next 2-3 yrs.
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Great article. The number and variety of tributes that have come out for this man today is a testament to his impact.
Bearly Clad
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Rest Easy Dog. You were one-of-a-kind, you'll be greatly missed, and you will never be forgotten
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