There have been a lot of negatives this year, and at this point, it might be time to accept the reality that Cal football is not going to be an elite team for a while.
It didn’t take long after head coach Sonny Dykes took over for people to demand he be fired. But realistically, that’s not going to happen. Dykes has boatloads of cash due his way and Cal isn’t a crazy rich school that can afford to fire him and hire an even more expensive coach.
His problems on defense and recruiting have already been talked about nonstop for the past couple years. With so many losses, it’s easy to be caught up in all of the bad things. It’s even more frustrating for the fans who believe the Bears can one day climb themselves back to greatness and be a top 10 team in the country.
But Cal is not a football school anymore. While there’s still a long history and traditions and all that stuff, it’s unrealistic to treat the Bears as a powerhouse program with powerhouse expectations. That’s just setting everybody up for disappointment.
Most people will probably look at Dykes’ past four years and say they’ve been underwhelming. But he’s signed until 2019 and he’s most likely going to be the coach until 2019. It’s easy to complain about him, but Cal isn’t a school like Texas where it has the resources to keep its coach accountable.
Although many may disagree with how Dykes is running the program, there’s not really much anyone can do other than just to accept an underperforming football team.
But maybe he can turn things around. One positive thing he’s been able to do is produce standout individual talent. This year saw lots of big names make highlight plays, such as Khalfani Muhammad, Tre Watson, Davis Webb, Demetris Robertson, Chad Hansen, Melquise Stovall, James Looney, Darius Allensworth, Khari Vanderbilt, Jaylinn Hawkins and more. The only problem, like in previous years, is the individual talent hasn’t necessarily always translated to success on the field.
Maybe that’s just the kind of school Cal is — a school capable of producing NFL talent but not as capable of producing wins.
Dykes isn’t on a short leash like other head coaches at good schools. He came in with the job of trying to get a struggling team to struggle less. And even though there have been sprinkles of nice moments from likeable players, they’re still struggling. This year hasn’t been a complete disaster, though. Few people thought Cal could beat Utah and Texas, but the Bears were able to keep both games close and come out with a dramatic victory.
It’s natural for a team to regress after it reaches a peak and everybody leaves and the team needs to start over. It seems like Cal is still dealing with the downward aftereffects when a team passes a peak. The only problem for the Bears is their peak of eight wins in 2015 isn’t really that impressive relative to the rivals that fans always compare them to. Cal is technically rivals with Stanford and USC. But in terms of football, these schools don’t really see the Bears as a big threat on their schedule.
I think Dykes has one more peak season left in him. It may not be Rose Bowl level or top 25 team level peak but probably a season where Cal gets a pre-Christmas bowl game.
Dykes still has time to finish with a strong second half of his time here. But based off his unexceptional sample size of four years, it seems like it’s time to just accept the fact that Cal will have to continue to be a very average school for a little longer.
Ritchie Lee covers football. Contact Ritchie Lee at