What does Pierre Ingram’s departure mean for Cal football?

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Pierre Ingram, Cal’s wide receivers coach and recruiting extraordinaire, was arrested last Thursday after allegedly soliciting a prostitute. Before this column can go on, I have to say how sorry I am for Ingram’s wife and two children, for the players he recruited and mentored and for the Cal community as a whole. This is a sad and serious story, and it will have a huge impact on many people’s lives, especially Ingram himself.

That said, this is a football column. Let’s talk about how Ingram’s departure (his contract, which lays the groundwork for terminating a coach for this kind of thing, will not be renewed by the university when it ends at the end of the month) will affect Cal football this season and beyond.

Ingram was widely perceived as Cal’s top recruiter, bringing in a laundry list of three- and four-star recruits in his two seasons with the Bears. That’s where this will affect the Bears the most: in long-term recruiting.

Ingram was not an offensive mastermind, and his departure won’t be very visible on game days. Running the offense falls to head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, not Ingram or anyone else. But it’s possible that after this incident, some of the recruits Ingram had been talking to — including a decent number of the 2016 commits who are already in the pipeline — may jump ship. It always hurts to lose a coach in late spring. It’s even worse when it’s an out-of-nowhere loss of the team’s top recruiter.

The only positive here is that as the wide receivers coach (a title Ingram only just took on this year after serving as the running backs coach the previous two seasons), Ingram was primarily recruiting at a position of strength. Even after losing wideout Chris Harper to the draft, Cal will return nearly all of its offensive playmakers next year, giving the program plenty of cushion to reload on talent. Between Trevor Davis, Bryce Treggs and “Vicinity” Kenny Lawler, the Bears won’t have to worry about their receiving corps next year.

Still, that’s the only positive spin on this. Ingram was tasked with mentoring many players, and his actions are an embarrassment for the entire program.

Ingram’s exit pairs poorly with the departures of Rob Likens and Zach Yenser, Cal’s former wide receivers coach and offensive line coach, respectively, who left for Kansas in January. The worst way to interpret this string of events is that Dykes can’t keep his coaching staff together. The best way to interpret it is to say that Likens and Yenser will essentially see promotions at Kansas, showing how well Dykes has done, and that the Ingram situation is a tragic coincidence. The truth is probably closer to the latter than the former, but the situation is still the same, and losing three positional coaches in one offseason hurts.

It’s sad that while the players on offense will see so much continuity in 2015, the coaches on the sideline are experiencing such rapid and unexpected turnover. It would be fair at this point to take the expectations for the Bear Raid down a notch, but not much more than that: This is still Dykes’ and Franklin’s show, after all. I’d be willing to wager that Ingram, Likens and Yenser called a total of zero plays in 2014.

Still I can’t shake the thought that a ridiculous three (!) offensive coaches are leaving in one offseason. This scandal will probably blow over eventually, and Cal could enter 2015 with one of the best offenses in the conference, if not the country. But if everything doesn’t go to plan, if this Cal team can’t get it together and trudges through another season without a bowl berth, you could easily point to this incident as the exact moment when the cracks started to show.