Justin Wilcox

Cal football coach Justin Wilcox gets mic'd up for close look at Bears

Cal football coach Justin Wilcox gets mic'd up for close look at Bears

With Cal's late-night win over 14th-ranked Washington on Saturday, Golden Bears coach Justin Wilcox now has a winning record (14-13) in his two-plus seasons in Berkeley.

After inheriting the program from Sonny Dykes, 42-year-old Wilcox is trying to build a winning culture, and he let NBC Sports Bay Area catch a glimpse of what he's working on, granting exclusive access to Monday's practice.

"We hold them to really high standards, but that's what this place is about," Wilcox said. "You gotta have something to you. You gotta have the 'figure-it-out factor,' as we call it. This place attracts people like that. It's a big draw for us."

Two days after the big win, Wilcox allowed NBC Sports Bay Area to mic him up for Cal's practice, and the relationship with his players was on full display. There was no yelling, no scolding. Only teaching.

"I just love how even-keeled he is. No matter if we do good or do bad, he's always ready to coach us, no matter what," Bears cornerback Camryn Bynum said. "Fix any mistakes, even if we had the best game we ever played -- he's always finding something to fix. As a player, he always holds us accountable to always get better every single day."

The last time the Bears made consecutive bowl appearances was 2008 and 2009. Wilcox is trying to end that drought this season, but he knows his 2-0 team has much work to do.

"To do what we want to do as a team, it's imperative that we improve every week," Wilcox said. "If they continue to practice like this and pour their heart into the meetings, we will improve, but we're a long way from where we could be."

The Bears will host North Texas on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. PT, and then travel to Oxford, Miss., to face Ole Miss before Pac-12 Conference play resumes.

New Aaron Rodgers-gifted locker room has Cal football team fired up

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USATSI

New Aaron Rodgers-gifted locker room has Cal football team fired up

Aaron Rodgers: fashion icon, rocket-armed quarterback, mustache marvel and proud Cal alum.

The Green Bay Packers star quarterback made a seven-figure donation to his alma mater back in June to revamp the football program's locker room and create the Aaron Rodgers Football Scholarship. The scholarship will go to one junior college transfer per season.

Rodgers, a Chico native, transferred to Cal after playing his freshman season at Butte College.

As for the locker room renovations, those recently were completed and this year's Bears were fired up about their new digs. 

Pretty, pretty flossy.

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Head coach justin Wilcox has put together an impressive defense that helped the Bears go 7-5 last season and earn a berth in the Cheez-It Bowl where they eventually lost to TCU.

Cal opens its season Saturday against UC-Davis.

Justin Wilcox may be on to something at Cal

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AP

Justin Wilcox may be on to something at Cal

We should have surmised that college football was trying a new marketing campaign when Cal -- sad, downtrodden, debt-savaged Cal – beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill as a 13-point underdog.

Then Howard, a sub-average FCS team with three winning records in this century, became the largest underdog in history to win outright by beating UNLV at Vegas, 43-40.

And finally, UCLA parlayed a deft 44-10 late third-quarter deficit to Texas A&M into a 45-44 win, with the winning touchdown drive featuring a fake spike by Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen, all of which inspired an A&M regent to demand the immediate firing of head coach Kevin Sumlin.

And that new marketing scheme?

Easy. “We Play Drunk; We Coach Drunk/We Vent Drunk.”

Now with a 92-game inventory (and that’s just the bowl eligible games; don’t even ask me about St. John’s beating St. Scholastica, 98-0), you ought to have a few clangers here and there. I mean, Liberty (plus-33) beat Baylor, 48-45, making karma 1-0 this season.

But this is the part of college football that is riveting – the early-season piefights and coach-killers. You don’t typically get Howards and Libertys and Roy Buzbees (the A&M regent with the itchy trigger finger) right off the bat, but you absolutely never get them later.

And Cal? Justin Wilcox may be on to something, and if so, we can stop calling them downtrodden and debt-riddled. I mean, we don’t have to, but if this is the new Cal, we may as well fit this into the sport’s new paradigm:

Playing drunk, and for a precious few, being really good at it. And now that regents are in play on Labor Day, this could be the best season ever.

Until, as is always the case, Alabama fun-kills the whole thing like it always does.