Sonny Dykes was nearly 30 minutes into a news conference wrapping up his first season at Cal when the Golden Bears coach was asked what he could point to as a tangible sign of progress.
Dykes was stumped for a reply, a fitting cap to a season in which Cal seemingly had no answer for much of anything. The Bears won just one game in Dykes’ debut season. Outside of freshman quarterback Jared Goff breaking the school’s single-season passing record, there wasn’t much else that went right.
“What was frustrating to me is that every team I’ve ever coached has gotten better,” Dykes said Monday. “If you look at our season, it’s tough to see that. That’s what was frustrating for all of us was how did we improve and where was it?”
That’s a question many Cal fans were asking after the Bears finished with their worst record since going winless in 1999.
Dykes, hired away from Louisiana Tech to replace Jeff Tedford after Cal went 3-9 in 2012, was expected to put the program back on track.
Instead, the Bears finished 1-11 and seemingly got worse with each week after winning their only game of the season against FCS school Portland State on Sept. 7. Cal lost its final 10 games, capped by a 63-13 blowout loss to rival No. 8 Stanford on Saturday.
The losses weren’t just confined to the field, either. The student section at Memorial Stadium was often near empty during games, and an increasingly frustrated group of alumni was calling for Dykes to be fired long before the season ended.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Dykes said. “These things happen for a reason. Any time that you have issues you always look at yourself first and foremost.”
Dykes isn’t the only one who came under fire after Cal went winless in the Pac-12.
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh, whose unit gave up nearly 46 points a game, has been heavily criticized all season. Dykes, however, gave Buh a vote of confidence and said he expects to have most, if not all, of his assistant coaches back in 2014.