California Golden Bears football
|California Golden Bears football|
|Athletic director||Jim Knowlton|
|Head coach||Justin Wilcox|
2nd season, 12–13 (.480)
|Stadium||California Memorial Stadium|
|Year built||1923, renovated in 2011–12|
|Field surface||Momentum Turf|
|NCAA division||Division I FBS|
|Conference||Pac-12 (since 1959)|
|Division||North (since 2011)|
|Past conferences||Independent (1886–1887, 1889–1905)|
|All-time record||669–539–51 (.552)|
|Bowl record||11–11–1 (.500)|
|Claimed nat'l titles||5 (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1937)|
|Colors||Blue and Gold|
|Fight song||Fight for California|
|Marching band||University of California Marching Band|
The California Golden Bears football team is the college football team of the University of California, Berkeley. The team plays its home games at California Memorial Stadium. Memorial Stadium was built to honor Berkeley alumni, students, and other Californians who died in World War I and modeled after the Colosseum in Rome. Memorial Stadium was named one of the 40 best college football stadiums by the Sporting News. The team also has produced two of the oddest and most memorable plays in college football: Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels' fumble recovery and run toward the California goal line in the 1929 Rose Bowl, and The Play in the 1982 Big Game with the last play five lateral winning kickoff return.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1920s and 30s: Andy Smith and the Wonder Teams
- 1.2 1940s and 50s: Pappy's Boys
- 1.3 The 1960s, a decade of political change and football underperformance
- 1.4 A rise in the 1970s but another fall in the 1980s
- 1.5 1990–2001: A brief return to success followed by another downfall
- 1.6 Jeff Tedford era (2002–2012)
- 1.7 Sonny Dykes era (2013–2016)
- 1.8 Justin Wilcox era (2017–present)
- 2 Conference affiliations
- 3 Championships
- 4 Rivalries
- 5 Head coaches
- 6 Bowl history
- 7 Current NFL players
- 8 Future non-conference opponents
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
1920s and 30s: Andy Smith and the Wonder Teams
Football was first played on the Berkeley campus in 1882, albeit in a form that resembled rugby. It was not until 1886 that American football began play. It played its first annual rivalry game – known as The Big Game – against Stanford University in 1892. This became one of oldest College rivalry games in the United States. Football was put on hiatus in 1906 when it was decided by the Theodore Roosevelt administration that American football was too dangerous a sport and rugby once again took over the scene. Football returned for good in 1915 and Cal has fielded a team in every year since.
The 1920s saw the first golden age of California football, as the Golden Bears went 50 straight games without a defeat from 1920 to 1925, with a record of 46 wins and 4 ties. As of 2010, this is the third-longest unbeaten (not to be confused with winning) streak in NCAA history. The 1920–1924 squads were so dominant that they were nicknamed "The Wonder Teams", and were coached by Andy Smith. He is considered to be the greatest football coach in Golden Bears' history. He is famous for his defense-oriented strategy of "kick and wait for the breaks". Dying in 1925 with his University of California 10-year record of 74 wins, 16 losses and 7 ties, Smith remained Cal's most winning coach until he got surpassed by Jeff Tedford in 2011. During his time California won three NCAA recognized national titles, four Pacific Coast Conference championships and made three trips to the Rose Bowl. In 1921 it shutout Ohio State 28–0. In 1922 and while swimming in mud, it tied the huge underdog Washington & Jefferson College presidents 0–0, for the sole tie in Rose Bowl history. One of the stars of this era was Harold "Brick" Muller. A month before the start of the 1920 season he won the Silver Medal in high jump at the Summer Olympics in Belgium, while that winter at the 1921 Rose Bowl win over Ohio State, he threw a touchdown, caught two passes and made several vital tackles. He also recovered three fumbles. In 1960 the respected Helms Athletic Foundation crowned the 1920 Cal Bears as the greatest football team in American history.
Andy Smith died shortly after the end of the 1925 season. His death was unexpected and traumatic for the team and the whole university. His replacement was his assistant coach Nibs Price. Price was first hired as a freshman coach in 1918. He recruited the dominant 1919 freshmen team that would become the core of the Wonder Team for the next three years. In their first season without Smith, Cal had its first losing season since 1897.
In 1928, the team was again undefeated, with six shutouts and was invited to the Rose Bowl to play against Georgia Tech. While this team is considered to be one of the greats in Cal history, it is also remembered for what happened during its game at the Rose Bowl. It has become the most famous (or infamous) moment in Rose Bowl history. In the second quarter, California's defense forced a Georgia Tech fumble on their own 30-yard line, and the loose ball was scooped up by California center Roy Riegels. He began to run towards the Georgia Tech end zone for a score, but then, in trying to get around the Tech players, he inexplicably turned around and headed in the other direction. Riegels advanced all the way to the Golden Bears' one-yard line before teammate Benny Lom was able to stop him, whereupon he was immediately tackled by what seemed like the entire Georgia Tech team. California elected to punt on the next play; the punt was blocked for a safety, giving the Yellow Jackets a 2–0 lead and what turned out to be the decisive points of the 7–8 loss. The 1929 team beat PCC champion USC. Two years later was Price's last season of coaching football.[n 1]
California football also achieved success in the 1930s. Those teams were led by coach Stub Ellison, won the PCC championship three times and appeared in the 1938 Rose Bowl. The team was led by the team captain and future member of the College Football Hall of Fame Vic Bottari, who scored two touchdowns with California defeating Alabama, 13–0. Because of its staunch defense, the 1937 squad that went to the Rose Bowl was coined "The Thunder Team." In 11 games, California had 7 shutouts and limited all of its remaining opponents to only 33 points. There were 5 touchdowns, 42 completions, 60 first downs, 432 passing yards, 858 rushing yards and 1,126 total yards gained against it. All of those are school records that still stand. The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia considered them to be better than the 1920 Wonder Team, ranking them as the best in school history. The 1938 Rose Bowl was the last one won by the Golden Bears.
1940s and 50s: Pappy's Boys
The 1947 season saw a dramatic turnaround as Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf became the head coach. The 1946 Bears only won 2 games while losing 7, upon Pappy's arrival they went to 9–1, their only loss was to USC. Known as "Pappy's Boys", the California teams of 1947–1950 won 33 consecutive regular season games, earning three PCC championships and three Rose Bowl berths. However California lost all three Rose Bowls: 20–14 to Northwestern in 1949, 17–14 to Ohio State in 1950, and 14–6 to Michigan in 1951. Because of both Cal's return to greatness and Pappy's great character – even after the losses, Pappy became admired by both his players and his fans. One of the things that he became known for was him addressing the fans after every home game from an outside balcony of the Memorial stadium.
In 1953 the NCAA changed the game by canceling a rule that was in place since World War II, a team could no longer make multiple substitutions and have specific players for each position, only one substitution could be made per play. Up to this change Pappy's approach was to use highly specialized players for key positions, which no longer became possible after the change. With the rule was withdrawn Cal went from 7–3 to 4–4–2. The 1953 season is partially associated with a recruiting scandal involving star freshman quarterback Ronnie Knox. In order to have Knox enroll at the university, the California football booster club promised him that Knox's step father to be hired as a scout, his high school coach would be hired as an assistant coach, and that Knox himself would be given a job writing for a local newspaper and also be paid $500 per year by the booster club. Knox enrolled at Cal but California's administration found out and made sure that the benefits would not be provided. Following investigation by both administration and the PCC conference, it was found that Waldorf was not directly involved in the scandal. The team did not have a winning season after 1953 and Pappy retired at the end of the 1956 season when Cal went 3–7. During the late 50's NCAA kept changing its rules and by 1964 it again allowed unlimited substitutions.
One of the star players during Pappy's years was Jackie Jensen. He played from 1947 to 1948, was an All-American and the first Cal player to rush for 1,000 yards. He was also a pitcher and a center fielder for the baseball team, was an All-American twice and led the team to win the inaugural College World Series in 1947. He left his junior year to play baseball and in 1958 was the American League's Most Valuable Player as an outfielder.
Pete Elliott became Cal's head coach the following year. He won only one game in 1957 and two games in 1959. However, in between those two years – the 1958 season, California went 6–1 in the PCC, taking first place and earning a spot in the 1959 Rose Bowl. Unfortunately it lost that game to Iowa 38 to 12. One of the highlights of those years was Joe Kapp, who is considered to be one of the greatest players in Cal history. Aside from his skills as a quarterback, he is also remembered for his character. Completely dedicated to his team and his university, he was able to push his teammates to perform beyond their limits as well as to fiercely intimidate his opponents. Because there were no other stand out players on the 1958 team it is his fierce determination that is considered to be the reason for Cal playing in the 1959 Rose Bowl. It was for this ability to transfer his passion and determination that he was offered and accepted the California head coaching job in 1982. It should also be noted that during the years when he played for the Minnesota Vikings he equaled the most touchdowns in the game record of seven and lead the team to win the 1969 season's Super Bowl. He declined the Viking's most valuable player of the year award because it was the team and not him that deserved it.
The 1960s, a decade of political change and football underperformance
Marv Levy became the head coach in 1960, with Bill Walsh as his one of his assistant coaches; they were at Cal until 1963. Although each would go on to become future Pro Football Hall of Famers, Levy for his coaching with the Buffalo Bills and four straight Super Bowl appearances and Walsh for his three Super Bowl titles with the San Francisco 49ers, they could not produce a single winning season at Cal Ray Willsey took over the program in 1964. A Cal alumni, he played under Pappy Waldorf, leading the team as a quarterback in the 1952 season's 26 to 0 win over Stanford. In the 1960s during his years as the coach, Berkeley became a center of counterculture and political protest. This led to significant problems with recruiting – Willsey had to try and commit the recruits while the Berkeley protests and police crackdowns were a regular part of the nightly news. During this decade Cal won the Big Game only two times, in 1960 under Marv Levy and in 1967 under Ray Willsey.
The recruiting difficulties where finally overcome in 1968, that year's team would come to be known as The Bear Minimum. It was let by Ed White an All-American and future member of College Hall of Fame, relying on its defense Cal went 7–3–1 and ranking as high as 8th in the AP poll. It won 21–7 at Michigan and beat No. 10 Syracuse 43–0. Earning three shutouts it held its opponents to 10.4 points a game. The Bear Minimum still holds Cal's records for opponents' average gains per play – 3.60, as well as the fewest rushing touchdowns per season – 5 (same as the Thunder Team). Its average yards per rush was 2.51 which is still second only to the 1937 Thunder Team with 2.50 yards per rush.
The other positive stand out of this otherwise unfortunate decade was Craig Morton, who was an All-American who held multiple Cal records, including for most career passing yards and touchdown passes. His touchdown record of 36 lasted for the next 24 years. He was picked 5th in the 1965 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, and was with them for the next ten years. He led the Cowboys to the 1970 Super Bowl V where they lost to the Baltimore Colts 16 to 13. The next year, he rotated with the future legend Roger Staubach throughout the season to help lead the Cowboys back to the title game and defeat Miami Dolphins 24–3 in Super Bowl VI.
A rise in the 1970s but another fall in the 1980s
The 1968 season led to the Golden Bears' turnaround in the 1970s. Willsey left in 1972, finishing with Cal tying for 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific-8 Conference in his last two years. His overall record was 40–42–1. In 1972, Mike White was hired. He was a Cal alumni and a Stanford assistant coach from 1964 to 1971. In 1972 both Stanford and Cal head coaching positions became open and he received invitations from both schools to lead their programs. He decided to leave Stanford and return to Cal. After two losing seasons, he brought home three winning seasons over the next four. In 1974, the team went 4–2–1 in the conference. It was led by quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who was an All-American and first in the nation with 2,580 yards. In 1975 he was the number one NFL draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons and was named the NFL Rookie of the Year. In 1975, behind an NCAA-leading offense anchored by All-Americans Chuck Muncie, Wesley Walker, Steve Rivera, and Ted Albrecht, the Golden Bears were co-Champions of the Pac-8 Conference. However, it was co-champion UCLA went to the Rose Bowl because of its season victory over Cal.
The quarterback and leader of the 1975 team was Joe Roth. Because of that outstanding season he was one of the Heisman Trophy candidates at the beginning of 1976. He had a great start, however halfway through it his performance started to drop. Unknown to almost everyone, Roth was diagnosed with melanoma the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Only coach White and his closest friends knew about it. With Roth continuing to play he still had a strong season and was named an All-American. His last game was in January 1977 at an all-star game in Japan and he died several weeks later in Berkeley. In respect of his perseverance, and dedication to others his former locker is dedicated in his honor and the annual home game against that year's opponent UCLA or USC is known as the Joe Roth Memorial Game. Coach Mike White left after a 1977 season when the Bears finished 8–3 but a disappointing 5th in the division with a 4–3 record. White was succeeded by Roger Theder, who was one of his assistant coaches during the previous six years. Theder led the Bears to three winning seasons, but each was less successful than its predecessor. In 1979, California played in the Garden State Bowl, losing to Temple 28–17 after a 6–5 regular season.
The 1980s saw a return to mediocrity, with California posting only one winning season in the entire decade. Joe Kapp was the most famous coach in this period. Kapp was a Cal quarterback during the 1950s and was considered to be one of the greatest players in Cal history (see the 1940s and 1950s section). Even though he did not have any coaching experience, because of his famous determination and commitment to the team, both as a California Golden Bear and as an NFL Minnesota Viking, Kapp was hired as the head coach in 1982. Unfortunately Kapp's success as a player did not translate into success as a coach. While his first season could be considered as a success, with the Bears winning seven games and reaching the sixth place in the Pac-10 standings, in the following years they could not do any better with Cal being in the last place in 1984 and 1985. The 1986 season was Kapp's last, during which Cal finished ninth in the Pac-10.
As a coach Joe Kapp is most remembered for what happened in the annual Big Game against Stanford during his first season in 1982, which is now known as The Play. After Stanford, quarterbacked by John Elway, had taken the lead on a field goal with four seconds left, the Golden Bears used five lateral passes on the ensuing kickoff return to score the miraculous winning touchdown and turn defeat into a 25–20 victory. The Play also ended Stanford's hopes for playing in a bowl game. Due to the Big Game rivalry and the improbable way that The Play unfolded, it is considered to be one of the most memorable plays in college football history.
1990–2001: A brief return to success followed by another downfall
Bruce Snyder, an assistant coach of the Los Angeles Rams, arrived as head coach at Berkeley in 1987. Snyder was able to gradually turn the program around. In 1990 Cal had its first winning season since Kapp's 1982. The Golden Bears went 4–3–1 in the Pac-10, finishing 4th, which was its highest since Mike White's 4th place in 1977. That year California played in the Copper Bowl where it beat Wyoming 17–15. This was the Bears first bowl win since the 1938 Rose Bowl. Part of Snyder's success came because he was able to recruit a number of outstanding players, such as Russell White, Mike Pawlawski, Sean Dawkins, Troy Auzenne, David Ortega, away from football powers such as USC and UCLA.
One of the unfortunate highlights of the 1991 season was the game against the future national co-champion the undefeated Washington Huskies. The game was at home, where California was able to stand up to Huskies unlike any other team that season. The Bears stopped Washington from scoring from within the Cal red zone on multiple occasions and had a chance to tie the game with 5 seconds left. Cal lost that game 17 to 24. The Bears finished the season in 2nd place and were invited to play against the Clemson Tigers in the Florida Citrus Bowl. While the Tigers finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they were thoroughly defeat by the Bears 37–13.
Because of negotiation problems with Cal's new athletic director, Snyder left Cal for the Arizona State Sun Devils right after the Citrus Bowl. Upon leaving Snyder's salary increased from $250,000 a year at Cal to $600,000 at Arizona State. The Bears were able to replace Snyder by hiring away the Washington Huskies offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson. During his four years as the head coach Cal had only one winning season. During that 1993 season Cal was able to go 4–4 in the Pac-10 and placed 5th in the conference. They were invited to the Alamo Bowl where they defeated the 8th place Big Ten team, the Iowa Hawkeyes 37 to 3.
In 1996 California hired Green Bay Packers assistant coach Steve Mariucci. Under the new coach Cal won its first five games, with the fifth win being against 17th ranked USC in Los Angeles. However, it only won once during the rest of the season and Cal went 6–6 overall and 3–5 in the conference. Because of the 6 overall wins, Cal was invited to the Aloha Bowl, where it lost to Navy 42 to 38. On January 17 Mariucci left Cal to be the head coach at the San Francisco 49ers. During his first year Mariucci led the 49ers to a 13–3 regular season, however that team lost in the NFC championship game.
Steve Mariucci's 1997 replacement was the previous season's defensive coordinator Tom Holmoe. During the next 5 years under Holmoe, Cal went 6–34 in the Pac-10 conference. In 1999 Cal went 3–5 in the Pac-10, however in 2002 those 3 wins were forfeited as was found guilty of major NCAA violations. It emerged that two players were added to a completed class in order to keep those players eligible for competition. Even though this was discovered in 2002 when Cal had a new head coach, the 2002 team was banned from participating in a post season bowl.
2001 was Holmoe's last year, the team went 1–10, with its only win coming from at the last game of the year versus Rutgers, a team that went 0–7 in the Big East conference. That pre-season game was rescheduled to the end of the season due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. During Holmoe's years California lost all of its five games to the archrival Stanford. Coach Holmoe left the program at the end of the year, next year he returned to his alma mater Brigham Young University where he had a successful career as first an assistant and then the head of the athletic department.
Jeff Tedford era (2002–2012)
During the last month of 2001 Holmoe was replaced by Jeff Tedford, previously the offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks. California began a renaissance under Tedford, who dramatically turned around the long-suffering program. Under him the Golden Bears posted eight consecutive winning seasons, a feat that had not been accomplished since the days of Pappy Waldorf. After being ruled ineligible for a bowl game in 2002 due to academic infractions under the previous administration, the Bears also appeared in seven straight bowl games.
The Jeff Tedford era began with a bang, as California defeated Baylor 70–22, and went on to finish 7–5, their first winning season since 1993. The 2002 team defeated three nationally ranked opponents on the road for the first time in school history including California's first win over conference foe Washington in 26 years, and won the annual Big Game against arch-rival Stanford for the first time in eight years. Another highlight of that year was the emergence of Kyle Boller, a senior quarterback who was a three-year starter under Holmoe, throwing for a total of 36 touchdowns and 38 interception. In his only year under Tedford, Boller threw for 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2003 he was an NFL first round pick by the Baltimore Ravens. While Boller played in the NFL for the next eight years, he is seen as never living up to the high expectations from a first round draft pick.
In 2003 the Golden Bears posted an 8–6 record, highlighted by a dramatic 34–31 triple-overtime victory over No. 3 ranked and eventual national co-champion USC. In the Insight Bowl, the Golden Bears edged Virginia Tech 52–49 on a last-second field goal.
In 2004, the Bears posted a 10–2 record under Tedford and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with their only regular season loss coming against the eventual national champion, USC. During that game Rogers tied then NCAA record of 23 consecutive complete passes. California finished the regular season ranked No. 4, and appeared to have an excellent chance to receive an at-large BCS bowl berth, most likely in the Rose Bowl. Under normal circumstances, the Bears, as Pac-10 runner-up, would receive the Rose Bowl berth since conference champion USC was playing for the national championship. The Bears entered their final game of the regular season ranked No. 4 in BCS standings and a 24-point favorite over Southern Miss. They won 26–16 in a closer than-expected game. With 13 seconds left in the game and California with the ball at the Southern Miss 22-yard line, Tedford elected to run out the clock instead of attempting to increase the margin of victory to possibly impress some voters. Leading up to the game, Tedford said he had no interest to run up the score.
In a controversial case, the Texas coach Mack Brown made impassioned pleas to media asking poll voters reconsider their final votes. Several Associated Press (AP) voters were besieged by fan emails and phone calls attempting to sway their votes, apparently spurred from Brown's pleas to rank Texas ahead of other "less deserving teams." Nine of the 65 AP voters switched Texas ahead of California, and three of them were from Texas. In the Coaches Poll, four voters moved Cal down to No. 7 and two to No. 8, when the week before none had them lower than No. 6. Meanwhile, two coaches moved Texas up to No. 3 when the team did not play that week. The Los Angeles Times wrote that accusations were raised about coaches manipulated voting, but the individual coaches votes were not released to prove or disprove the allegations. The AP Poll makes its voters' records public. No. 6 Texas gained 23 points on No. 4 California in the AP poll, and the fifth-ranked Longhorns closed 43 points on the fourth-ranked Bears in the coaches poll. That allowed Texas to earn a BCS berth, finishing .0129 points ahead of California in the BCS standings after being .0013 points behind. The Longhorns went on to beat Michigan 38–37 in the Rose Bowl, while California was upset by No. 21 Texas Tech 45–31 in the Holiday Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 9. In part, because of the lobbying controversy with California's BCS ranking, the AP poll withdrew from the BCS after the season.
The 2005 season saw inconsistent quarterback play and an overall inexperienced roster. Nate Longshore, who was chosen to succeed Aaron Rodgers, who had left for the NFL, sustained a season-ending injury in the season's first game against Sacramento State. He was succeeded by junior transfer Joe Ayoob, who started nine games and went 5–4. Third string quarterback Steve Levy replaced Ayoob as the starter for the Big Game, leading the Bears to victory. California finished 8–4 and earned a berth in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, beating BYU 35–28.
In 2006, led by Longshore, California went on to post a 10–3 (7–2 in Pac-10) record. Despite falling to the Tennessee Volunteers in their first game of the season in Knoxville, the team rebounded, winning eight straight games, including impressive victories over the 20th ranked Arizona State and the 11th ranked Oregon at home. Two losses followed with a November 11, upset 24–20 by Arizona and a 23–9 defeat by USC, which cost California its Rose Bowl bid.
In the final game of the regular season on December 2, California defeated Stanford 26–17 in the 109th Big Game for the fifth straight time. Coupled with UCLA's upset of reigning conference champion USC on the same day, the victory earned California its first share of the Pac-10 championship since 1975. The Golden Bears accepted an invitation to the 2006 Holiday Bowl, its second appearance there in three years. Cal routed Texas A&M 45–10, the largest margin of victory for a bowl game in the 2006–2007 season, and finished with a No. 14 ranking, an improvement from the No. 20 spot that it started with at the beginning of the season.
California began the 2007 season ranked 12th in both the AP/USA Today Polls. In a nationally televised game on September 1, the Golden Bears defeated Tennessee 45–31. The Bears rose in the polls following subsequent victories against Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, and Arizona. California's defeat of then No. 11 Oregon in Eugene 31–24, combined with a series of losses from Oklahoma, Florida, and West Virginia, allowed the Bears to break into the top five. California had a bye the following week, but as a result of Stanford's surprise upset of then No. 2 USC on October 6, the Bears were ranked No. 2 in the country in the AP, Coaches, and Harris polls behind No. 1 LSU. This was the highest the team had been ranked since 1951.
With the Kentucky upset of LSU on October 13, the Bears had a shot at being the number one team in the nation along with Ohio State, but an upset loss to unranked Oregon State that same night dashed any hopes of a top ranking. The loss marked the beginning of a reversal in the second half of the season which saw the Bears winning only one game out of the next six and dropping out of the Top 25 entirely. The Bears lost to Washington for the first time in five years and to Stanford on the 25th anniversary of The Play, which resulted in the Cardinal regaining The Stanford Axe for the first time in six years under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh. California accepted an invitation to the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force on December 31, where post a 42–36 victory to end the season 7–6. Before the season even ended, Tedford declared there would be open competition for all positions on the team in 2008 and reevaluate every aspect of California's football program. Tedford made several coaching changes, most notably relinquishing offensive coordinator duties and hiring Frank Cignetti to playcall and take over quarterback coaching duties.
The Bear's 2008 campaign was marked with diminished expectations, as all of California's offensive stars at their skill positions (DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan, Justin Forsett and Craig Stevens) graduated or declared for the NFL Draft. Thus the Bears started the season unranked for the first time since 2003. Their 2008 season would confirm this ranking, as they would finish the season undefeated at home but would only win one game on the road. The Bears won their opening game at home against Michigan State 38–31 and eviscerated Washington State in Pullman 66–3, but fell to Maryland 35–27 in College Park. The Bears won two straight home games against Colorado State and Arizona State but fell in the desert to Arizona. Although the Bears still controlled their destiny in the Pac-10 after two more home wins against UCLA and Oregon, two close losses to Pac-10 champion contenders USC and Oregon State on the road put an end to those hopes. Cal reclaimed the Axe by beating Stanford 37–16 in the 111th Big Game and kept Washington's season winless with a 48–7 victory. Cal finished the regular season 8–4 as Tedford claimed his seventh consecutive winning season for the Golden Bears and third unbeaten home record in five years. The Bears accepted an invitation to take on the Miami Hurricanes at the 2008 Emerald Bowl, which they won 24–17.
Cal began the 2009 season with early wins over Maryland, Eastern Washington, and Minnesota. However, the team struggled with consistency, losing to Oregon and USC, then rebounding to defeat UCLA, Washington State, and Arizona State. Following a loss to Oregon State, Cal managed to upset Pac-10 title contender Arizona. Cal also upset Stanford in the Big Game. The season however ended on a low note with consecutive losses to Washington to end the regular season and Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl. The loss to Utah snapped a four bowl game winning streak going back to 2004. The Bears also did not produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2002. The end of the season saw some coaching changes. Cal hired Jeff Genyk as special teams coach to replace the fired Pete Alamar, and Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator to replace Bob Gregory, who departed for Boise State.
Tedford surpassed the legendary Pappy Waldorf to become the Cal head coach with the 3rd most career victories when the Bears blew out UC Davis 52–3 in the season opener. Despite early successes however, the team had an inconsistent season. After starting senior quarterback Kevin Riley sustained a season-ending knee injury in a loss to Oregon State, Cal had only one win in the final four games, edging out Washington State for the team's sole road victory. The Bears finished the season on a three-game losing streak, getting edged out 15–13 by No. 1 Oregon, losing the Stanford Axe to archrival No. 8 Stanford in a 48–14 blowout, and sustaining a last second defeat by Washington. The team finished 5–7, Tedford's first losing season and the team's first losing season since 2001, failing to become bowl-eligible for the first time during Tedford's tenure as head coach. California was ranked only once during the season with a No. 24 spot in the Coaches' Poll. One bright spot for the season was running back Shane Vereen going over the 1,000 rushing yard mark, as he finished with 1,167 yards.
During the massive reconstruction of California Memorial Stadium, California played their home games in AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. The season opener against Fresno State, officially a neutral-site game, was played at Candlestick Park.
During this season, and following the team's first losing season during Tedford's tenure as head coach, the Golden Bears improved to 7–5 (4–5 in the Pac-12) to finish fourth in the North Division. On September 17, 2011 Cal beat Presbyterian College making Tedford the winningest football coach in Cal history. Cal also became bowl-eligible again and accepted a bid to play Texas in the Holiday Bowl, while the Longhorns and Golden Bears have not met since 1970 in Austin, there was recent history invoking the two teams because of the 2004 Rose Bowl controversy. Cal lost the 2011 Holiday Bowl 21–10.
Memorial Stadium reopened in 2012 after its $321 million renovation, but Cal had another losing season with a 3–9 record—only 2–5 at home. They lost to Stanford for the third straight season. Cal finished the final two games of the season with the worst losses of Tedford's career – a 59–17 home loss to Oregon followed by a 62–14 road loss against Oregon State. A few days after the final game of the season, Tedford was fired as head coach, but was owed $6.9 million over the remaining three years of his contract. In his final three seasons, he was 15–22, including 9–18 in conference games and 0–3 vs. Stanford. Since the loss of the 2007 game to Oregon State, Tedford was 34–37.
At the same time, in a letter to donors and season tickets holders, the University athletic director Sandy Barbour called a "great concern" that the current 48 percent graduation of Cal football players was the lowest rate in the Pac-12. In the letter she stated that the athletes' continuing decline in academic performance and the need to establish a new starting point for the necessary changes was one of the reasons for the termination.
Tedford left the Bears with the most bowl wins (5), conference wins (50), and games coached (139) in the school's history. He also tied Pappy Waldorf for most Big Game wins (7) against Stanford. During his tenure, California produced 40 players drafted by the NFL, including eight first-round picks.
Sonny Dykes era (2013–2016)
On December 5, 2012 Sonny Dykes was announced as the new head coach of California Football. Dykes was hired from Louisiana Tech, where he had served as head coach for four seasons. Dykes is known for his offensive mind. In his first season, Dykes finished with a 1–11 record. He became the first head of coach of the Golden Bears since the University began playing football in 1886 to fail to defeat a single D-1 opponent in a season that has lasted at least five games. In 2014, Dykes second season, the Bears experienced an improvement going 5–7.
Along with the new coaching staff, the athletic department began implementing a new program to deal with the significant problems with academic performance of Cal's revenue sports athletes. Beginning in 2015 the program would require an incremental rise in applying athletes' Grade Point Average. By 2017–2018 at least 80 percent of incoming athletes would be required to have a high school GPA of at least 3.0, the university's general admission standard. Except for Stanford, this would be the strictest requirement in the Pac-12. Sonny Dykes began addressing the academic issue before the requirements were enacted, the 2014 season recruiting class had 77 percent of students with a 3.0 or higher GPA.
In 2015, the Bears started with a 5–0 record before four consecutive losses. They fell out of the top 25 after being ranked No. 20 prior to their loss to UCLA. They finished the year 8–5 including a 55–36 victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. That year was also the last year for quarterback Jared Goff, who was the starting quarterback for three years, beginning the same year as Dykes' initial season, and setting 26 team records. He left Cal as a junior and was the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Following that season and due to significant academic and athletic improvements, Dykes' contract was extended until 2017.
In 2016, Cal went 5–7, winning only 3 out of the 9 Pac-12 games. A highlight of that season was the team's win over UCLA, making it the first time that Dykes was able to lead the team to beat one of Cal's three traditional rivals – Stanford, UCLA and USC. On January 8, 2017 Sonny Dykes was fired. He finished at Cal with a four-year record of 19–30. The firing came as a surprise as his contract was previously extended and most coaching changes come right after the end of a season and not the following year. Two of the stated concerns were Dykes' commitment to the program, as following the 2016 Dykes was interviewed by Baylor University for their head coaching positions, and the significant decreases in home game attendance – thirty percent less season tickets were renewed for 2017 than for the previous year.
Justin Wilcox era (2017–present)
On January 14, 2017, less than one week after Sonny Dykes' firing, Justin Wilcox was named as his replacement. Prior to becoming the 34th head coach of the Golden Bears, Wilcox had a successful season as a defensive coordinator for the University of Wisconsin, with the Badgers winning the Cotton Bowl. He had also previously coached for the Bears as a linebacker coach under Jeff Tedford from 2003 to 2005. Cal's poor defensive showings under Sonny Dykes can be considered as one of the major factors in Wilcox's hiring. Shortly after joining the Bears, Wilcox hired Beau Baldwin, head coach at Eastern Washington University, to become his offensive coordinator.
The Bears went 5–7 in 2017 under the first-year head coach, with wins over North Carolina, Ole Miss, and #8 Washington State, and three losses by three points or fewer. The season highlight was the Bears' 37–3 defeat of #8-ranked Washington State under quarterback Ross Bowers and running back Patrick Laird, the first time Cal beat a top ten opponent since its defeat of #3-ranked USC in 2003.
The Bears went 7–6 during Wilcox's second year in 2018. After the Bears upset #15 Washington 12–10 and defeated USC 15–14 at the Coliseum in Los Angeles to snap a 14-year losing streak to the Trojans,, the Bears lost 10–7 in overtime to TCU in the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl. The Bears’ offensive efficiency ranked as the second worst among all Power Five teams.
- Independent (1886–1905, 1915)
- Pacific Coast Conference (1916–1958)
- Athletic Association of Western Universities (1959–1967)
- Pacific-8/Pacific-10/Pac-12 Conference (1968–present)
|1920||Andy Smith||Football Research, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)||9–0||Rose Bowl||Ohio State||W 28–0|
|1921||Andy Smith||Billingsley MOV, Boand, Football Research, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)||9–0–1||Rose Bowl||Washington & Jefferson||T 0–0|
|1922||Andy Smith||Billingsley MOV, Houlgate, NCF, Sagarin||9–0||–|
|1937||Stub Allison||Dunkel, Helms||10–0–1||Rose Bowl||Alabama||W 13–0|
California has won a total of 14 conference championships since 1916.:73–79
|Year||Conference||Coach||Conference record||Overall record|
|1935 †||PCC||Stub Allison||4–1||9–1|
|1938 †||PCC||Stub Allison||6–1||10–1|
|1948 †||PCC||Pappy Waldorf||6–0||10–1|
|1975 †||Pac-8||Mike White||6–1||8–3|
|2006 †||Pac-10||Jeff Tedford||7–2||10–3|
California's main rival is Stanford. The two schools participate in the Big Game every year, with the winner taking home the Stanford Axe. Stanford leads the series record at 63–46–11 (wins–losses–ties).
California has an active rivalry with UCLA. The schools are the two largest public universities in the state of California and both have been part of the same conference for many years. UCLA maintains a winning record in the series, which has gone 55–33–1.
|1||Oscar S. Howard||1886||1||6||2||1||.722||0|
|4||Charles O. Gill||1894||1||0||1||2||.333||0|
|6||Charles P. Nott||1897||1||0||3||2||.200||0|
|9||Frank W. Simpson||1901||1||9||0||1||.950||0|
|12||J. W. Knibbs||1905||1||4||1||2||.714||0|
* From 1906 to 1914, rugby was played instead of football. Cal's 13th coach was Oscar Taylor from 1906 to 1908. Cal's 14th coach, James Schaeffer, coached rugby from 1909 to 1914 and football in 1915.
California has participated in 23 bowl games, garnering a record of 11–11–1.
Current NFL players
As of January 2, 2019
Future non-conference opponents
|UC Davis||at UNLV||Sacramento State||UC Davis||Auburn||UC Davis||UNLV||at UNLV|
|North Texas||TCU||at TCU||at North Texas||at San Jose State||at Auburn||at San Diego State|
|at Ole Miss||Cal Poly||Nevada||UNLV||San Diego State|
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