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Cal fans, thoughts on Justin Wilcox, Jake Spavital, Jimmy Lake as coaching candidates?

Chip the long shot?

Oregon v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

rThis roundtable was produced before Jimmy Lake became a serious contender for the job.

Of the names we've heard (Chip Kelly, Justin Wilcox, Jake Spavital), it's pretty obvious who most Cal fans would want at first glance. What do you think of the names being floated and who could you see Cal deciding on?

boomtho: First, I'll mention, the names being floated now are substantially more exciting than the last time around... so kudos to Sonny for the work he's done reversing the negative slide under Tedford.

That being said, of the 3 names mentioned, my preference would be, in order: Chip, Wilcox, and Spav. Of the 3, Chip is the only guy with sustained success at the collegiate level, and he's obviously getting paid by the 49ers to not coach, which may push him into our price range. Now, he's said in the past he doesn't enjoy recruiting, so I'm not sure how realistic a hire this is - but I think it'd be a homerun, given the talent we have at the skill positions, his history of successfully recruiting the West Coast, and potentially his desire to rehab his image. The downside, as I see it, is that he's been notoriously flighty - hard to see him wanting to be at Cal long.

Wilcox obviously has a good resume as a defensive coordinator, but Cal is unique in its academic requirements and somewhat anti-football campus culture. I think he'd be a solid hire, but I'd be worried about a first time HC navigating the uniqueness of Cal.

Third, Spav - a lot of what I wrote above for Wilcox applies, except Spav really has a much shorter track record of success. He knows Cal at least, which is good - but I'd be worried elevating Spav would be a bit "more of the same" when the program needs a shakeup.

Ohio Bear: Just curious, boomtho, as to this:,

Wilcox obviously has a good resume as a defensive coordinator, but Cal is unique in its academic requirements and somewhat anti-football campus culture. I think he'd be a solid hire, but I'd be worried about a first time HC navigating the uniqueness of Cal.

Wilcox was on Tedford's staff for 3 years. Why do you view him as less able to navigate Cal's culture than Spavital?

boomtho: My thought is that while Wilcox was certainly at Cal for 3 years, it was in the early 2000's... without any of the context around the stadium debt, the newer academic recruiting restrictions forcing Cal to recruit more nationally. Spav's recency of being on staff, in that context, seems more valuable. That's just my read, though.

atomsareenough: Honestly, I'd probably have to lean Wilcox, especially if he keeps the offense in place. Picture it: Wilcox and Tosh (and maybe Burns stays too?) on defense, Spav on offense. That's a solid group of recruiters on both sides of the ball. Could be a high ceiling for that team if all those coaching pieces fit together well. The question is, will they. Might be worth finding out.

My concern is, if we hire Spav as the HC, I have no idea what the defensive staff looks like. Would it be Dykes-ball redux, or would he be able to land a great DC and exercise more oversight and emphasis on that side of the ball than Sonny did?

Kelly... seems like a remote possibility. Maybe for a couple years, but not as a long term thing. I don't think he wants to be in college in the first place, much less deal with the sort of bureaucratic BS that he'd have to contend with at Cal. He's obviously a smart guy and an established coach at this level, but I just don't see it as a fit, aside from the possibility offensive compatibility.

ragnarok: Wilcox and to a lesser extent Spavital seem the most likely to me at this point, as both have had success as assistant coaches at Cal previously. When I think of Chip Kelly (and this goes for other crazy ideas, like Les Miles), I am reminded of the AD Mike Williams's statement, including: "we need a head coach who is fully committed to our program and remarkable University". That, to me, doesn't sound like Chip, who I can't imagine would view Cal as anything other than a springboard to another job.

In addition to all of the other qualifications you'd want in a Head Coach, you really want a guy who views Cal as at least a potential destination job (I say "potential" because there are definite structural issues that need to be addressed, primarily the budget and the University support, and any candidate for the job would rightly want to see a plan for addressing those, just as Tedford wanted a plan for addressing the Stadium issue).

Andrew G Miller: Under normal circumstances, I think I would be more enthusiastic about Spavital or Wilcox (or some combination thereof). As recently as a month ago, when Sonny was sniffing around at Baylor, I was able to talk myself into both of them. But these aren’t normal circumstances anymore; most coaches have already found their new homes, which leaves Cal looking a little bit desperate to be making a move now. In light of the constant dysfunction surrounding the Cal athletic department (e.g. the latest report on our financial status), Mike Williams desperately needs to make it look like this was all part of his master plan. Ditching Sonny for Spav or Wilcox just doesn’t quite move the needle for me.

If this move truly is about energizing the donor base—and I give Williams credit for acknowledging the lack of enthusiasm among fans—then this has to be a big name move, something that makes him look like he knows what he’s doing. Of course, that’s easier said than done at a lower-prestige program like Cal. But the AD has backed himself into this corner and only a display of sheer competence is going to get him out of it. I’m not sure that Chip Kelly is the answer—he’s not a great program fit in my mind anyway—and it may not have to be something of that magnitude, but I’m hoping for something a little splashier. Spav and Wilcox are by all accounts great coaches, but if this move is meant to get people excited, an internal promotion or the DC from Wisconsin both feel a bit uninspired.

Also, in light of Mike Williams’ comment about the need for a coach who demonstrates “commitment to our program,” I’d like to go on record as being against the return of Tosh Lupoi. Thank you for your time.

Nik Jam: I think Wilcox could be a great head coach. The only worrying is the fact that he's never been a head coach before, but everyone has to start somewhere right? I think he can be a real lift to the defensive side of the ball, both in terms of scheme and recruiting. Hopefully he'd be able to bring great guys on the offensive side of the ball as well, if he doesn't keep Spav.

Spav being a head coach is also intriguing. I think he'd be really popular with recruits and the team would rally around him. But the youth and inexperience thing is a big negative. Plus, if Sonny didn't give any attention to the defensive side, why would I believe Spavital would be an improvement there? I do think he would be able to get better defensive recruits though. Also, at least for the first two years or so, he shouldn't be expensive to have as head coach, but if he has a solid 2017 we can get a better contract to prevent other Power 5 teams from getting him.

I'm not even entertaining thoughts of Chip coming. I'm thinking it'll be Spavital removing his interim tag.