Thursday, March 21, 2013
Dykes arrives to finish Tedford's rebuilding
By Ted Miller
BERKELEY, Calif. -- While California has hired two coaches over the past 12 years, it didn't hire them to do the same job.
Jeff Tedford took possession of a dilapidated and unlivable house on college football's skid row in 2001. Sonny Dykes this winter moved into a nice home in a posh neighborhood that needs some minor interior renovations.
Sure, Cal went a dreary 3-9 last season, its second losing season in three years, which got Tedford fired. But he took over a program that went 1-10 in 2001, played in a crumbling stadium that averaged 30,000 in attendance and featured some of the worst facilities in major college football.
Dykes has inherited a team that went 82-57 under Tedford and plays in front of 55,876 fans even during a 3-9 season. And the facilities? Sparkling. Brand freaking new. Among the best in the Pac-12 and the nation.
Tedford made the Bears respectable and then made a push for the top of the Pac-10. That initiated the process -- glacial in pace -- of facility upgrades. But he couldn't reach the top of the conference. The program plateaued and then reversed course. In 2004, it seemed certain Tedford would get the Bears to their first Rose Bowl since 1959. In 2012, the Rose Bowl seemed infinitely far away, and it didn't help that stricken Old Blues had to watch crosstown rival Stanford win the darn thing.
"Jeff had a rebuilding job. His job was different," Dykes said. "He made this place credible. He made people take notice and say, 'Cal is a good job. You can do things at Cal.' If it hadn't been for his success, we wouldn't be sitting in this facility right now. He did a great job with the program. They kind of fell off the last couple of years, but he's what made this place a good place."
Dykes is expected to make it a great place.
That won't be easy. Stanford and Oregon are in the way, for one. Washington and Oregon State, potential top-25 teams in 2013, also are looking to take the proverbial "next step." And that's just the North Division.
Further, there are some things that need to be cleaned up, not the least of which is team academics.
Cal is the nation's most celebrated public university. It's difficult to walk around campus without running into someone wearing a Nobel Prize medal. Yet the football program not only ranked last in the Pac-12 in graduation rate last season at 48 percent -- 5 percent behind No. 11 Arizona -- it ranked second worst among automatic qualifying conference teams, 1 percent ahead of Oklahoma, where folks believe the Nobel Prize is something a person gets for visiting the "Rock Rose Capital of the World."
On the football side of things, the Bears seemed mired in a general malaise over the past few seasons. Quarterback play, upon which Tedford built his strong reputation, was mediocre to bad post-Aaron Rodgers. Further, when Cal lost, it didn't mess around. Over Tedford's final four years, the Bears lost 16 games by at least 17 points. That happened while the Bears nonetheless remained a major pipeline to the NFL.
Top-to-bottom talent didn't seem like the problem. It seemed like the Bears had become a bit of a head case. Chief among Dykes' first-year tasks is creating a mentally tougher team.
"This is not a traditional rebuilding job," Dykes said. "But some things do need to be rebuilt. I think the psyche needs to be rebuilt. Maybe expectations need to be rebuilt. We need to do a good job of balancing athletic and academic success."
As for X's and O's and quarterback woes, Dykes and his spread-guru offensive coordinator Tony Franklin averaged 51.5 points per game last season at Louisiana Tech, with quarterback Colby Cameron ranking 22nd in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing 31 TD passes with just five interceptions.
Too pass-happy? The Bulldogs averaged 227 yards rushing, which ranked 17th in the nation. Dykes, who also coached Nick Foles as Arizona's offensive coordinator before going to Louisiana Tech in 2010, has the offensive bona fides, without question.
In terms of putting it all together at an elite academic institution -- Cal fans might want to cover their ears -- Dykes sees a pretty good model playing ball a bit to the south.
"The thing Stanford has done is they've done it the right way," he said. "Their kids are graduating. They've proven you can have high academic standards and still have success on the field."
Dykes says his charge is "not about building a team; it's about building a program." That means creating a culture aimed at long-term and high-level success.
Yes, more than a few Old Blues have related to Dykes their singular wish to experience a Rose Bowl before they die. Tedford used to joke that many Cal fans wanted the Rose Bowl more than a national title.
Tedford took over a team that hadn't posted a winning season in eight years. He made winning seasons the standard. Now Dykes is charged with pushing the Bears back into the national rankings and into the Pac-12 title picture, while maintaining high academic standards.
And if he produces a Rose Bowl victory, they'll probably build a statue of him outside remodeled Memorial Stadium.