We take a look back at the 2017 year and reflect on our favorite moments, players, games.
1. What was your favorite individual moment of 2017 as a Cal fan and why?
thedozen: Farida Osman only added to her status as a world class swimmer when she won the NCAA individual title in the 100-yard butterfly in March. As a Cal fan who is also partly of Egyptian descent, I was proud to hear the news. Osman, the former co-captain of the Cal women's swim team, has her sights set on competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, which would be her third. She already snagged a bronze medal in the 50-meter butterfly during July's World Championships.
Nick Kranz: Late in the 4th quarter, Cal clings to a 20-17 lead over Ole Miss. While the Rebels offense has been misfiring for some time, they had the pure talent ready to make a play or put together a drive that could send Cal fans home unhappy. But then Cam Goode dropped into a shallow zone, got into a passing lane, picked off a pass, raced into the end zone, and sent Cal fans into delirium and the fine citizens of section R into a celebratory mosh pit. It was a play that sealed a win while simultaneously symbolizing the sea-change in program focus and attitude under the 'we-try-on-defense' Wilcox era.
Nik Jam: I got to meet Missy Franklin and Ryan Murphy at some Cal swim meets early in the year, and got pictures with both of them!
Rob Hwang: When Justin Wilcox was hired as the new Head Coach of Cal Football.
2. What was your favorite Cal game in 2017 and why?
thedozen: The Cal men's basketball game at San Diego State on December 9 stands out to me. Not because it's the harbinger of a strong season: by now, Cal fans should realize that the women's team is far likelier to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. No, I chose this game because it looked like another heartbreaking ending before Don Coleman and his teammates flipped the script at a stunned Viejas Arena. When it comes to Cal revenue sports sometimes disappointment can seem predictable or even expected, but not on this day.
Nick Kranz: I'm not going to overthink this. In what I will forever remember as the 'AQI game,' Cal absolutely boat raced a Washington State squad that finished the regular season ranked #18. It was one of the single most shockingly lopsided results of the college football season, and a wildly fun 4 hours of entertainment for the 15,000 or so fans who actually attended a game that was wildly inconvenient/unpleasant for many who sat out. For 60 minutes you got to see something as close to idealized Justin Wilcox football as the 2017 Bears were capable of achieving, and it left me dreaming about future seasons where performances like that are more the norm and less the exception.
Nik Jam: It is a toss up between the Ole Miss win and the WSU win. The WSU win was great but was marred by the controversy over the air quality. It was also "over" in the 3rd quarter. We were also expected to lose the Ole Miss game, and it was a close thrilling win that showed that Cal was for real. So I will go with Ole Miss.
The Cal men's basketball team defeating Stanford on my birthday was fun too.
Rob Hwang: WSU Win. Memorial was Rocking. Ross Bowers did a flip. Defense was everywhere. Offense was clicking. That was the most dominant Cal Football performace over the last 5 years and at home.
3. Who was your favorite Cal player in 2017 and why?
thedozen: Patrick Laird was a really fun surprise at running back. 191 yards on 12 carries against Weber State was eye-popping but might have been dismissed as a product of weak competition. By the time Laird racked up 545 yards in his last three games against Pac-12 squads, you could tell that this season was no fluke.
Nick Kranz: One goal I have in 2018 is to stop taking Kristine Anigwe for granted. You don't get many players that drop in as freshmen and immediately average 20 points/game on 57% shooting, but that's what Anigwe was the minute she stepped foot on campus. This year we saw her add to her game, with improving defense and rebounding to go along with her scoring .
Her scoring is actually down slightly this year, but that's pretty clearly a reflection of the improved depth around her so that the Bears aren't quite so hamstrung if teams decide to double or triple team her. Kristine's FG% has ticked up to 60% and every game you miss is a one less game in the ongoing career of a Cal great. She started the season 14th on Cal's all time scoring list and will likely finish the season somewhere in between Alexis-Gray Lawson and Layshia Clarendon.
Nik Jam: This one's tough. I could name a lot of players who had big years in their sports. I think some players (like Toni-Ann Williams and Devante Downs) would be locks if not for injuries that didn't allow them to play full seasons this year. Others, like Andrew Vaughn, Antzela Dempi, and Patrick Laird, had amazing seasons but were on losing teams. There are a lot of great Olympic Sport athletes that I sadly didn't witness enough in person for them to be my favorite (See: a lot of Cal swimmers and soccer players) So I've spent quite a few minutes torn on this.
I will go with Kristine Anigwe for what she's done to lift up the women's basketball team and bring them to the postseason last March. Since I attended all but a handful of their 2017 home games, I had a chance to see how great of a player she is in person. The team's underwhelming Pac-12 season from Jan-Feb of 2017 was not her fault.
Though the recent "Coach's decision" to have her miss a game, among other things, does worry me and nearly made me consider naming someone else, if the team excels in 2018 (both conference play of the current season, and if she's a part of it, non-conference at the end of the year) I think she will be a lock for sure at the end of 2018.
Rob Hwang: Jabari Bird. What he meant to the fans and the program the last 4 years is indescribable. The man could’ve gone pro a lot earlier but stayed behind at the chance that he might see glory with the roster’s we had the last few years. It’s paying off now though.
4. What is the most important Cal moment of 2017 and why?
thedozen: I almost used this space to praise Jack Clark's run of success as rugby coach or Ryan Murphy's incredible swimming career. However, I am inclined to choose Chancellor Carol Christ's announcement that some of Cal's stadium debt will be assumed by central campus. As someone who almost witnessed the elimination of Cal baseball in 2011, I hope this revelation means that all existing Cal sports programs will be able to remain in place.
Nick Kranz: Jeez, this is a tough question to answer. Here's a quick list of moments that will shape the future of Cal athletics:
1. Cal hires a new football coach
2. Cal hires a new basketball coach
3. Cal hires a new chancellor
4. Cal's current athletic director announces that he will be stepping down at the end of the 2017-18 calendar, initiating a search for a replacement
5. Cal's new chancellor announces a restructuring of the debt that is currently crushing Cal athletics
This has probably been the most significant year for Cal's athletic department since at least the groundbreaking of New Memorial and the SAHPC; it would be hard to come up with a more critical year of decisions that impact the long term health of Cal athletics. In many ways, the majority of the changes/decisions listed above felt like long-awaiting reactions to a series of disastrous years of mismanagement within Cal's athletic department. Small but important steps towards addressing Cal's stadium funding debacle have been made, and I think we've gotten a solid sense of how higher ups view intercollegiate athletics (too big to fail) and how their decisions will be shaped going forward.
So if forced to pick, I'd piggy back on thedozen's comments and go with the hiring of Chancellor Christ, who has already rendered multiple important decisions, and will be making the most important decision later when Cal's new athletic director is hired. I just want to tell you good luck - we're all counting on you.
Nik Jam: The firing of Sonny Dykes and the hiring of Justin Wilcox. The revival of Cal Athletics requires a solid football program, and this hire has put hope in the program. In the next 2-3 years this will be shown in increased attendance, bowl games, and Big Game wins. Quote me on that!
Rob Hwang: I defer to Nick’s answer. It’s too good of an answer.