The college football coaching carousel continued on Sunday with the news that the California Golden Bears had axed Sonny Dykes as head coach. Dykes posted a 19-30 record over four seasons at Cal and while his record was nothing special it was still a surprise to see him fired so late in the year after it seemed as though his job might be safe. The firing opens the door for the Golden Bears to go in a different direction with several quality options still available. Here is a look at five potential coaching candidates to succeed Sonny Dykes as the head coach at Cal.
The former San Francisco 49ers head coach has been the most talked about candidate to land the job with the Golden Bears as a former college coach that hasn’t found success in the NFL. After a 2-14 season with San Francisco, Kelly’s NFL record sits at 28-35, which looks even worse compared to the 46-7 mark he had at Oregon from 2009 through 2012. There are a lot of people that think Kelly is bound for a return to the college ranks and Cal could offer the opening he is looking for with a chance to go back to the Pac-12 and turn around a Golden Bears football program that is in need of a new direction.
Jake Spavital, California Offensive Coordinator
Spavital will serve as interim coach following Dykes’ dismissal and the Oklahoma native could be a strong candidate to take over the full-time gig. Spavital guided the Golden Bears offense that averaged 37.1 points per game this season and it will be interesting to see whether he made a strong enough impression to earn the promotion. Spavital is just 31-years-old and has no previous coaching experience but the California brass will have a good handle on his capabilities and whether or not they want to turn to him as a long-term option.
Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator
Wilcox already has plenty of experience in the Pac-12 after stints at California, Washington and USC and his experience with the Golden Bears could be key in his return. The Oregon native has worked as a defensive coordinator for 11 straight years and he has become one of the more highly regarded coordinators after leading the Badgers to the third-ranked scoring defense in the Big Ten with an average of 15.6 points per game allowed. Wilcox has no head coaching experience but he could be due for his shot at a lead role.
Beau Baldwin, Eastern Washington Head Coach
Baldwin might be considered a bit of a long shot but he is a California native that has guided Eastern Washington to an 85-32 record since 2008 so maybe he could be a fit. The Eagles have made the FCS playoffs in four out of the last five years under Baldwin, including a national title in 2010. Baldwin is well regarded for his work on offense and if the Golden Bears feel he is the right fit then he could graduate to his first head coaching job at the FBS level.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force Head Coach
Calhoun has a pretty good thing going at Air Force but if he was willing to make a move, then the Golden Bears could be a pretty good fit. Calhoun has registered a 77-53 record as the head coach of the Falcons while guiding the program to bowl appearances in nine of 10 seasons. Calhoun’s experience in the NFL makes his resume even more impressive and if he is willing to make the move then Cal could take a long look at him as an option to succeed Dykes as the head coach of the Golden Bears.
The main issue is that Cal is a hot bed of quality talent but Calhoun runs an unconventional offense at Air Force. They run the triple option and that’s not particularly sexy. Fans would rather see all sorts of future NFL prospects at quarterback, wide receiver and all of the other skill positions. Calhoun might not bring that to town, which could encourage the team to look in another direction.
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