A lot has been made of Cal's increased focus on academics for incoming athletes who hope to be future old blues. Jeff Tedford left the Cal program in shambles with the worst player graduation rate in the entire Pac-12. Sonny Dykes was challenged with the task of not only revamping a program, but also increasing the emphasis on academics for existing players and new recruits.
The school has been on a noticeable upswing since then, and under a new set of rules, Cal will be targeting only athletes with a 3.0 grade-point average in high school. It was stipulated that 40 percent of the incoming athletes meet that standard this fall, and the bar will be set at 80 percent by 2017.
"It does reduce the number of guys we can recruit," Dykes said. "There are some players we just can’t get now because of those increased standards, but we get it and understand it. That’s been a little bit of a challenge for us, finding those players and figuring it out.
Here is what athletic director Mike Williams recently said on the topic.
DC: One big priority has been incorporating new admission requirements for the incoming athletes. How are those being incorporated, and can you speak to what those requirements are?
MW: The faculty did want to take a long and serious look at admissions. So they have implemented new admission requirements that phase in over the incoming ’16, ’17 and then final implementation for the incoming ’18 athletes. … Those requirements are 40 percent, 60 percent and 80 percent with 3.0 or above, plus a written letter of recommendation. We’re already at 80 to 84 percent across our student-athletes that are UC-eligible. There are some teams where that percentage is a little bit lower, but I think that — I don’t know the final numbers — but I think that virtually every team is far ahead of the pace that’s been required by admissions.
The first signal of change came at a very odd time during an awful first year for Cal and a blowout loss to the loathsome USC Trojans. The Bears were nearly finished with a miserable season that saw almost every defensive player get hurt or kicked off the team. Jackson Bouza, a senior and Tedford recruit was asked to talk about the cultural shifts and his answers exemplified the early success Coach Dykes had. Take a quick look at the video below:
The best quote comes at the 3:05 mark, "Just the little things, people going to class, on time, sitting front row and instilling little things that may seem like a minor detail, but are important in changing a program around".
Fast-forward two years and the program appears to be headed the right direction and the graduation rates are steadily increasing. Sonny Dykes for the foreseeable future will have to battle the dilemma of missing top tier recruits who cannot get academic exceptions and be forced to recruit better students. Ultimately that could breed a healthier program, despite taking more time to reach the upper echelons of success.
Cal has gotten a wake up call with these bad numbers here. If Cal can redouble their efforts and provide greater academic support, they could have more Gabe Kings, who come to Cal for football reasons and then get a great education out of it.
What do you think Cal fans? How do you see the academic standards impacting Cal football both in a positive and negative way? Is this something that has you excited for the future, or yearning for years past?