Five candidates to revive the dormant program


Cal fired head coach Mark Fox Thursday in a surprising move only because it had taken 19 hours from the conclusion of the worst season in school history to the announcement of Fox’s termination.

The writing has been on this wall since the invention of writing.

Fox was a questionable hire from the start, as athletic director Jim Knowlton spent just three days looking for a replacement for Wyking Jones in the spring of 2019 and allowed an East Coast-based search firm, Collegiate Sports Associates, to guide the lawsuit, despite its questionable record for West Coast signings.

The first red flag: Fox was unemployed at the time, having been fired by Georgia a year earlier.

The second red flag: Fox had no ties to Cal.

Every captive Bears fan — at least, those who weren’t kicked out by six dreadful years under Jones and Fox — should hope Knowlton doesn’t keep the CSA this time around.

Then again, Pete Newell at the height of his powers would only lead the Bears to mediocrity without the university deciding it really cares about basketball.

For all the spotlight on the lack of a dedicated practice facility, the program’s problems run much deeper.

The national football and men’s basketball scene has changed dramatically in recent years. The transfer portal created a free agency system that presents challenges for schools with high academic standards, while the name, image, and likeness (NIL) implementation goes against the traditional NCAA model prized by schools where the faculty’s voice is taller.

Together, the portal and the NIL forced schools to choose their level of commitment to winning.

Not surprisingly, Cal did not advance to the new era.

By the way, neither does Stanford.

In both major sports – the sports that generate revenue for all other sports – old rivals are falling behind at an ever-accelerating pace.

The result is a double dip into the Bay Area abyss that couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Pac-12.

With USC and UCLA announcing their Big Ten departures (summer 2024) and the Bears and Cardinal struggling to compete, California is rapidly losing relevance at a time when the conference needs success in its most populous state.

It’s not like either school is decades away from winning. In the spring of 2017, Cal basketball ended a 21-win season under Cuonzo Martin; that fall, Stanford football won the Pac-12 North division title.

So Martin fled Berkeley for his home turf (the Missouri coaching job). The Bears responded with a bad signing (Jones), then compounded the problem with another bad signing. Fox is a good coach, but ill-suited to the talent acquisition process at a school with numerous inherent obstacles.

COVID has hit Cal and Stanford to a greater degree than many Pac-12 peers. Add the transfer portal and the NIL, and the landscape changed much faster than the universities adjusted – whether because they lacked willpower or skill.

Where should the Bears turn this time? Assuming Chancellor Carol Christ doesn’t order a major shift in institutional priorities, can anyone salvage this wreck?

Here are five names to consider:

Randy Bennett: One of the best buses on the West Coast resides a few miles outside of Berkeley. Yes, Bennett is in good shape at Saint Mary’s and will be head coach of the NCAA for the ninth time. But we believe he would jump if the Bears make a strong offer. They repeatedly rejected him over the years, and it’s unclear if the school’s approach has changed, even if their level of desperation has risen.

#candidates #revive #dormant #program


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