The football program is beginning to feel the changes that new coach Sonny Dykes is implementing.
One of the changes is a little odd: All new recruits will be required to spend two years in Berkeley’s dorms.
The obvious motive behind this is to address the team’s slumping academics by putting the players in a more controlled environment. The program ranks last in the Pac-12 in graduation rate and also brings up the rear in the NCAA’s recently released Academic Progress Report scores.
But Dykes sees the change going beyond academic performance. He wants to foster a tighter community for the team — a goal he has consistently reiterated since becoming the coach of the team in December.
“The big thing is that we become closer as a team,” Dykes said. “That’s a culture that’s established by the coaching staff. We have to have a relationship that’s not just centered around football.”
The new rule comes with the skepticism of some of the athletes.
“To bad we have to live in the dorms for two years now,” tweeted Ray Hudson, an incoming recruit, on June 5.
Bryce Treggs, a sophomore wide receiver for Cal who is not required to stay in the dorms for a second year, expressed sympathy for the recruits that are bound by the new rule.
“That’s not fair to the people who take care of their academics,” he tweeted.
But the change is designed to benefit the players in many ways — not just to punish athletes who are struggling academically.
Academic performance was actually not one of the top reasons that Dykes made the change. Instead, he was focused on goals that cannot be measured with a GPA — namely, ensuring that athletes would be able to meet a diverse group of students and that the football team would be able to grow closer as a community.
“If I had to do it over again, I would have stayed in the dorms longer,” Dykes said. “It improves your experience, and you get to meet more people.”
Other reasons also factored into Dykes’ decisions. He was impressed with the housing at Clark Kerr Campus and viewed keeping players in the dorms as preferable to having them search for housing after only one year — something that can often be expensive and difficult.
“Clark Kerr is such a great facility,” Dykes said. “It also encourages players to get in touch and in tune to what’s happening on campus.”
Dykes believes that, despite some skepticism from players, the team will rise to the challenge and fix its academic problems. He stated that the program has hit rock bottom, and that it is time to turn it around.
“The good thing is the players are aware of (the academic problem),” Dykes said. “Their pride is hurt, and they understand that it needs to get fixed.”
That’s not just talk — it appears the players are ready to respond to the challenges set forth by Dykes in order to erase the criticism the program has come under in recent years.
“I hope we can prove we can get the work done,” Hudson tweeted.