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Justin Wilcox ready to embrace Berkeley on and off the field

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Former Cal assistant introduced as new head coach

Justin Wilcox
Cal Football

Justin Wilcox has a clear vision for the future of Cal football.

“The goal here is pretty simple,” he said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “It’s to consistently compete for championships, graduate our student-athletes, and leave them with a fulfilling experience here in Berkeley.”

This marks a homecoming for Wilcox, who served as Cal’s linebackers coach from 2003 to 2005. During that time he learned to value the Berkeley experience, beyond just football.

“You walk around Berkeley and you meet people on campus who are Nobel Laureates and from every race, religion, gender, and socioeconomic background. You learn how to interact and connect with people who aren’t just like you, and that’s extremely important.”

Now at the age of 40, Wilcox is a head coach for the first time, and he wants to make sure his players appreciate Cal as much as he does.

“We’re looking for guys who value an education, who value the competitiveness of playing in, in my opinion, the best conference in college football, and value the social experience of living in a place like Berkeley, which is maybe the most dynamic place in the country.”

Wilcox has spent the last 11 years as a defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC, and Wisconsin. He figures to drastically improve a Cal defense which has ranked near the bottom of the country during Sonny Dykes’ four years as coach.

This past season at Wisconsin, Wilcox led a defense that allowed just 15.6 points per game (fourth best in the nation) and 301.4 yards per game (seventh best), despite losing five starters from the year before. To compare, Cal allowed 42.6 points and 518.3 yards per game, ranking in the bottom five nationally in both categories.

The Bears will implement changes on offense as well, including the recruitment of a tight end. Longtime Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin takes over as offensive coordinator, and according to Wilcox, it will be Baldwin’s show to run.

“The people we hire are going to do their jobs and we’re going to put complete trust in them,” Wilcox said.

The next priority for Wilcox, along with recruiting, is filling out the rest of his coaching staff, a task he does not take lightly.

“My job is to protect the program at all costs,” he said. “So while it’s easy to maybe hire everybody today, which is what we all want because that’s the certainty, we will not sacrifice what’s best for the long-term health of the program as we move forward.”

Wilcox clearly embraces the idea that Cal is a unique program with different challenges than most schools. As he told one reporter, “You use the word ‘constraints.’ I don’t necessarily see it the same. Is it a different profile? Yeah, it is. But that’s okay. That’s what we choose.”

By just about all accounts, Wilcox aced his introductory press conference. Now comes the hard part - acing the job.

Justin Wilcox Bio

  • Born: November 12, 1976
  • Hometown: Junction City, Oregon
  • College: Oregon
  • Graduated: 1999, Bachelor’s in Anthropology

Coaching History

  • 2001-02: Boise State - Graduate Assistant
  • 2003-05: Cal - Linebackers
  • 2006-09: Boise State - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2010-11: Tennessee - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2012-13: Washington - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2014-15: USC - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2016: Wisconsin - Defensive Coordinator