As Sonny Dykes was introduced to the Bay Area media Thursday, he described the Cal coaching job he was assuming as a dream job. I can only hope it doesn’t turn into a nightmare, as it has for almost every other Cal coach since World War II.
Dykes certainly seems to be a good fit for the job because he has great offensive credentials, and high-scoring offenses are what draw fans to games. Dykes runs a spread offense that has run up yards and touchdowns wherever he’s been — his Louisiana Tech team was the highest scoring in the nation this year — but, as he described it, is more versatile than most spread offenses.
“It’s not a true spread offense in that it can accommodate different styles of quarterbacks,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like a quarterback who can run 8-10 times a game, but my last two quarterbacks have been pocket quarterbacks.”
That’s good news for the Bears because the two candidates to be the starting quarterback next season, holdover Allan Bridgford and redshirt freshman Zach Kline, are both that kind of quarterback. Bridgford got some action in the recent season when starter Zach Maynard was hurt, but Kline seems to be the best prospect.
Dykes’ Louisiana Tech team also had the worst defense in the country, but not because he doesn’t believe in defense, pointing out that the year before, his team had a strong defense. “A lot of those players graduated, so I knew we were going to have to rely on just outscoring teams.”
Comments like that make me think that Dykes realizes that players make the system, not vice versa, which is a lesson Cal fans need to learn. The last two Cal defensive coordinators, Bob Gregory and Clancy Pendergast, have been criticized for their defensive schemes, though both have had success when they’ve had better players.
Now, the prevailing wisdom is that Dykes will have to hire another defensive coordinator, but that won’t be enough if he doesn’t have better players.
Jeff Tedford was fired and Dykes was hired for a simple reason: Cal has to sell tickets to pay the big debt for the remodeled stadium, a remodel that was forced because the stadium sits on an earthquake fault. But there has been a fundamental change in alumni and college football in general that will cause big problems for Dykes.
The younger Cal alumni seem to have no patience with the program. Tedford’s early success made them think that Cal should be in a top bowl every season. If the Bears don’t meet that unrealistic standard, alumni and fans will probably stay home.
Older alums, having suffered through so many bad seasons, are more patient, but they’ve been turned off by the pattern of games being played at a time that fits into a television schedule, which often means night games, sometimes even on Friday nights, a killer in a metropolitan area which often has gridlock in Friday night commute time. As one alum said to me, “They’ve set everything up for TV, so OK, I’ll stay home and watch on TV.”
So, Mr. Dykes, your mission is clear: Top 10 teams every year. And stop that screaming.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.