BERKELEY, Calif. – California athletic director Sandy Barbour was on the road Sunday, day 13 of her search to find a new head coach for the Golden Bears, when she was reminded of an important fact.
“My 53rd birthday was last Sunday, and until my mother called me I actually had forgotten,” Barbour said Thursday, standing in the Field Club of Memorial Stadium. “I wasn’t thinking about the fact that it was my birthday.”
Barbour could be forgiven after conducting between six and 12 interviews – she declined to give a specific answer – and taking 12 flights over the course of 16 days before hiring Sonny Dykes.
And whether it was AD-speak or genuine, Barbour said her first interview, with Dykes, would end up being the only one she needed.
“I will tell you - and I haven't told him yet - when he walked out of the room, I said to myself, ‘I think that's the guy,’” Barbour said.
Much of their discussions centered on academics. In recent years the team’s Academic Progress Rate dramatically declined, coming in second-to-last in the Pac-12 in the most recent figures. It had become a source of major embarrassment to the university.
Dykes was able to convince Barbour he could address those issues because of what Barbour termed his articulated values and consistency.
“Yeah anybody can say anything, but over the course of three meetings it was based on a variety of different questions and posing different situations. ‘Tell me about what you have done in this situation or give me an example of that you have dealt with in your career.’ The consistency and the focus on those values and principles was just dead on. He’s got it,” Barbour said.
Barbour and Dykes would meet twice more, the last in New York City on Monday as the college football world gathered for the annual National Football Foundation Awards Dinner, setting off a whirlwind schedule for the next Cal coach.
Dykes flew to Ruston, La. to meet with his players and staff at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday evening, then on to the West Coast for his introductory press conference Thursday.
The 45-minute session, which featured opening statements from Barbour, Dykes, and vice chancellor John Wilton followed by questions from reporters, marked the end of a search that was marked by exceptional professionalism. There were almost no leaks from inside the athletic department, which Barbour maintained when asked who else was interviewed.
“It’s incongruent with today’s thirst for information, but I just think it is the right way to do,” Barbour said. “I would hate to have our search compromised in some way by leaks, and secondly, I would have to have someone less that protected who in good faith participated in our search.”
Part of that mentality came from an on-campus advisory panel assembled not to suggest and vet candidates but to suggest what traits they should possess. Redshirt junior quarterback Allan Bridgford, redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Forbes, rugby coach Jack Clary, and women’s swimming coach Teri McKeever were among those that participated, as Cal had extra time to prepare after its season ended on Nov. 17, one to two weeks ahead of the rest of the FBS.
But even with Dykes now in the fold, Barbour’s job is not yet done. Dykes has agreed to a terms sheet with Cal, but a contract is still being finalized, as are details of Tedford’s buyout.
Only then can Barbour sit down and relax.
As she noted when asked to confirm the timeline of Dykes’ hiring, “I don’t even know what day it is. There is no point in me trying to tell you days.”
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.