Cal officially hires Wisconsin's Justin Wilcox as head coach

Justin Wilcox has been the defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Justin Wilcox has been the defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


Cal announced Wilcox’s hire Saturday afternoon.

“Justin [Wilcox] is a smart, driven person of high character with a proven record of success,” Cal athletic director Mike Williams said in a statement. “As a former assistant coach for us, Justin understands what it takes to be successful at Cal – in the classroom and on the field. He has deep West Coast roots, having grown up and spent the bulk of his career in the Pac-12 and the conference footprint. Justin just led the No. 7 defense in the country at Wisconsin and his teams have consistently ranked among the best in the nation. I am confident we have found someone who is clearly the right fit for Cal.”


It didn’t take long for Cal to find Sonny Dykes’ replacement.

After announcing the firing of Dykes on Sunday, the school has reportedly reached an agreement with Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to be its next head coach. This will be the first head-coaching job for Wilcox, who just finished his first season with the Badgers.

Wilcox has extensive experience in the Pac-12 as an assistant. He played collegiately at Oregon and was the linebackers coach for Cal from 2003-2005. After his time at Cal, he was the defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington and USC before landing at Wisconsin last January.

In his lone season at Wisconsin, the Badgers’ defense thrived, finishing fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.6 points per game) and seventh in total defense (301.4 yards per game).

At Cal, Wilcox inherits a program that had a 5-7 record in 2016. With the help of graduate transfer quarterback Davis Webb, the Golden Bears put up big numbers on offense, averaging 513.2 yards per game (10th nationally), but struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball. The unit was one of the nation’s worst. It gave up 42.6 points per game — No. 127 nationally (out of 128 FBS teams) — and 518.3 yards per game (No. 125).

Wilcox will be tasked with repairing Cal’s porous defense while working in a new quarterback following the expiration of Webb’s eligibility.

Cal won eight games (including its first bowl since 2008) in 2015 but had a 19-30 record, including a 10-26 mark in Pac-12 play, during Dykes’ four-year tenure with the program.

Wilcox arrives at Cal during an important part of the recruiting cycle. With national signing day just three weeks away on Feb. 1, coaches are working hard on the recruiting trail to secure commitments and fill out their 2017 classes. Cal currently has 15 commitments in its 2017 class, which is ranked 50th in the country and 10th in the Pac-12 by

In addition to Wilcox, interim head coach Jake Spavital (the team’s offensive coordinator in 2016 under Dykes) and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo were also reportedly considered for the job. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Spavital could remain on staff as offensive coordinator.

For more Cal news, visit

More college football from Yahoo Sports:

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!