Cal football is entering a crucial juncture in the Justin Wilcox tenure.

The Golden Bears haven’t had a winning season since COVID hit, one of the hardest-hit programs by the pandemic in all of college football. The Bears played four games in 2020, lost three of them, saw restrictions linger longer than just about anyone else, and have yet to recover.

Wilcox is 9-15 in his last two seasons and the Bears limped to 2-7 in Pac-12 play this past season. The offense has been a consistent pain point, and Golden Bears will employ a third offensive coordinator in seven years under Wilcox this season.

With seven Pac-12 programs changing head coaches in the last two years, there may not be much movement in the 2023 coaching cycle overall, but Wilcox seems to certainly be on the proverbial hot seat entering the new year.

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, in setting the table for 2023’s coaching carousel this week, had him as the only Pac-12 coach on the hot seat:

This is the main hot spot to watch with Wilcox. Very little has gone well for the program since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as the team is 10-18 in the past three seasons. The most notable development came in December 2021, when Wilcox turned down a chance to return to Oregon, his alma mater. Weeks later, he received a contract extension through the 2027 season.

Wilcox isn’t one of the highest-paid Power 5 coaches, but Cal’s financial issues are well-documented. The school might balk at firing a coach with so much time left on his contract, but the buyout money ($3.75 million) isn’t too steep. Another factor to watch is athletic director Jim Knowlton, whose status is increasingly shaky given the struggles in both football and men’s basketball, and a scandal involving the women’s swimming program.

With Cal’s men’s basketball program sitting at 3-22 and coach Mark Fox’s job in jeopardy as well, Knowlton has been under fire of late. Cal’s spending on its revenue sports has also been in the spotlight, with John Canzano recently painting a dire picture in Berkeley.

Cal begins spring ball on March 11. The Spring Showcase takes place on April 15.