Cal extends head coach Justin Wilcox through 2027 season
Justin Wilcox got the best kind of commitment Thursday.
The Cal head coach has signed a contract extension that’ll keep him with the UC Berkeley football program through the 2027 season, the school announced. Wilcox is 26-28 in five seasons with the program.
ʜᴇᴀᴅ @CalFootball ᴄᴏᴀᴄʜ ᴊᴜꜱᴛɪɴ ᴡɪʟᴄᴏx ꜱɪɢɴꜱ ᴇxᴛᴇɴꜱɪᴏɴ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ 2027 ꜱᴇᴀꜱᴏɴ 🐻🏈✍️
— Cal Athletics (@CalAthletics) January 20, 2022
“Justin Wilcox is a football coach who shares our values and vision, and we want to ensure that he is the leader of our program for the long term,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “He is a great fit for Cal Athletics and our university, with a philosophy that places an emphasis on developing young men on the field, in the classroom, and as people. I am confident our fans and alumni share my enthusiasm for the direction of our program, and the level of success we have seen to date has set a foundation for sustained excellence in the future.”
Wilcox took over a Cal football program in 2017 that had enjoyed only two winning seasons in the previous seven years. After an initial 5-7 campaign in 2017, he led the program to consecutive winning seasons and bowl games in 2018 and 2019 for the first time in a decade. The Bears ranked as high at No. 15 in 2019’s 8-5 campaign.
But Cal is just 6-10 since, and perhaps few FBS programs have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic quite like the Golden Bears. They played just four games during the 2020 season (1-3) and were the only FBS program that had to cancel a game for COVID-related issues in 2021.
“Since the beginning of his tenure, I have been impressed by Justin Wilcox’s leadership, and his commitment to enabling our student-athletes to take full advantage of the academic and athletic opportunities we offer,” Cal chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement. “He is, in my opinion, the quintessential Berkeley coach who understands the university’s values, as well as the value his program brings to the campus as a rallying point for Cal’s global community. College football is a highly competitive environment, and the investment represented in Justin’s new contract is commensurate with all that I know he will contribute to our university in the years ahead.”
Wilcox reportedly turned down his hometown Oregon Ducks last month before the program hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, a string of events that even prompted a letter from Oregon alumni to the athletic department voicing frustration. To remain at Cal, speculation was Wilcox received a significant commitment from the Golden Bears program.
According to the release, the assistant coach salary pool will get an increase, though the specific number wasn’t revealed. Wilcox was slated to earn a little more than $3.3 million next season.
One thing that surely plays well with his bosses is the success Wilcox has been able to foster in the classroom. The program recently announced its highest Graduation Success Rate ever (84%) and had 29 players named to the 2020 Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll last fall, the highest number for a season in program history. During Wilcox’s tenure, Cal has also posted its highest APR and highest team GPA in program history.
Of course, Wilcox gets paid big bucks to win football games, and he’ll need to show this last season-plus is more of a blip than the start of a trend. So far, Cal is 5-9 against USC, UCLA, and Stanford under Wilcox.
The hope is that wins over Stanford and USC in two of the last three weeks of the 2021 season can be a springboard for 2022.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be the head football coach at Cal and am excited about the future of our program,” Wilcox said in a statement. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute I have spent with the extraordinary young men who have been in our program. We are in a great position and strongly aligned with our university thanks to the leadership of Chancellor Carol Christ and Jim Knowlton. I thank both of them for their continued trust and confidence in me to lead a football program that will make the entire Cal community proud. We have very high expectations. I think we’ve earned the right to expect more, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”