Golden Bears



Golden Bears Highlights

General Information

  • NCAA Division: Division I
  • Conference: Pacific Athletic Conference
  • City: Berkeley, California
  • Stadium: California Memorial Stadium


  • National Championships: 5
  • Conference Titles: 14

Past Conferences:

  • Independent (1886–1887, 1889–1905)
  • PCC (1916–1958)

Team History

The Golden Bears had their first football team in 1882 and they played their inaugural game in 1892 against Stanford University. The game has since been nicknamed “The Big Game” and remains one of the oldest rivalries in college football history.

Andy Smith became head coach of the Golden Bears in 1920. From 1920-1925 they won 50 straight games. The team coined the nickname “The Wonder Teams.” They won four straight NCAA National Championships from 1920-1923. Unfortunately for the Golden Bears, Smith unexpectedly died from pneumonia in 1926. He finished his career at Cal with a 74-16-7 overall record.

Nibs Price became the next head coach of the Golden Bears. He picked up right where Smith and The Wonder Teams left off. He led them to undefeated seasons in both 1927 and 1928. The 1928 team was invited to the Rose Bowl. One of the most famous plays in Rose Bowl history happened during this game, when Cal’s center recovered a fumble and ran back into the wrong end zone, resulting in a safety. The Golden Bears lost the game 8-7.

Stub Ellison became head coach in 1936. Ellison got off to a hot start immediately. He led the Golden Bears to three Pacific Coast Championships within his first three years at the helm. The 1937 team was by far the best team during his tenure. They finished with a perfect 10-0 overall record and a 6-0 conference record. They were nicknamed “The Thunder Team.” They were one of the most dominant teams in the history of college football. They scored over 200 points and held seven opponents to zero points. They beat the Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl and were crowned National Champions yet again.

Head Coach Pappy Waldorf

Pappy Waldorf became head coach of the Golden Bears in 1947. He helped carry the Golden Bears to more prosperous seasons. In his first season, they finished with a 9-1 overall record. The next three seasons were especially prosperous for the Golden Bears. They made three straight Rose Bowls and had a combined 29-3-1 overall record. Additionally, they finished with an 18-0-1 conference record and won the conference title all three seasons. Unfortunately for the Golden Bears, they lost all three Rose Bowl appearances. After the 1950 season, the Golden Bears only had two more winning seasons under Waldorf. The Golden Bears posted a 29-28-3 record over the next six seasons. Waldorf retired after the 1956 season and finished his career at Cal with a 67-32-4 overall record, plus three conference titles.

Pete Elliot coached the Golden Bears for the next three seasons. In his first and last season, the Golden Bears had a 3-17 overall record and a 2-9 conference record. However, in his second season the Golden Bears were prosperous. They posed a 7-4 overall record and a 6-1 conference record. They were invited to the Rose Bowl. Elliot was out after the 1959 season and finished with a 10-21 overall record and an 8-10 conference record.

Ray Willsey coached the Golden Bears from 1964-1971. The first four years of his stint ended with the Golden Bears going 16-24 overall record and a 6-13 conference record. In the next four seasons, the Golden Bears improved immensely. The 1968 season was their best season under Willsey. They posed a 7-3-1 overall record and finished third in the conference. He was out after the 1971 season. He finished with a 40-42-1 overall record and an 18-25-1 conference record.

Mike White finished and Roger Theder coached the Golden Bears for the remainder of the 70s. White led the Golden Bears to three winning seasons during his six-year stint. Theder led the Golden Bears to three winning seasons and an 0-1 bowl record.

Copper Bowl & Citrus Bowl

After five underwhelming seasons under Joe Kapp, the Golden Bears hired Bruce Snyder. He started with three straight losing seasons at the helm. His fourth and fifth seasons proved to be prosperous for the Golden Bears. In 1990 the Golden Bears finished with a 7-4 record and won the Copper Bowl. The 1991 season was even better for them. They finished with a 10-2 overall record and won the Citrus Bowl.

Keith Gilbertson became head coach of the Golden Bears in 1992. They finished with just one winning season under him and one bowl game appearance and win.

The Golden Bears didn’t have a single winning season from 1994-2001. In 2002, Jeff Tedford became head coach at Cal. The streak was broken during his first year after they finished with a 7-5 overall record. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Golden Bears in 2003 and 2004. They finished with an 18-8 overall record and a 1-1 bowl record while Rodgers was the quarterback. Rodgers was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft.

The Golden Bears had continued success even after Rodgers’ departure. They went to five straight bowl games from 2005-2009. The 2006 season was the best. They finished with a 10-3 record led by Marshawn Lynch’s 1,356 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. They were ranked as high as 8th in the AP Poll, and they defeated the Texas A&M Aggies in the Holiday Bowl.

During Tedford’s stint, the Golden Bears went to eight bowl games and finished with a winning record in nine of his 11 seasons at the helm.

Sonny Dykes coached the Golden Bears from 2013-2016. They finished with just one winning season. In 2015, they finished with an 8-5 record and won the Arms Forces Bowl.

Justin Wilcox has been at the helm since 2017. In 2018 and 2019, they finished with winning records and received bowl invites. In 2018, they lost the Cheez-It Bowl, and, in 2019, they won the Redbox Bowl. They haven’t had a winning record under Wilcox since 2019.

All-Time Records (CFB)

Passing yards

  • Jared Goff: 12,200
  • Troy Taylor: 8,126
  • Kyle Boller: 7,980
  • Pat Barnes: 7,260
  • Rich Campbell: 7,174

Rushing yards

  • Russell White: 3,367
  • Marshawn Lynch: 3,230
  • Justin Forsett: 3,220
  • Joe Igber: 3,124
  • Chuck Muncie: 3052

Receiving yards

  • Geoff McArthur: 3,188
  • Bobby Shaw: 2,731
  • Keenan Allen: 2,470
  • Bryce Treggs: 2,506
  • DeSean Jackson: 2,423

What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?

The Golden Bears have won 10 games a host of times. The 1937 Golden Bears finished with a 10- record. They went on to beat Alabama and were crowned National Champions.

What Was the Worst Season in Program History?

The 2013 Golden Bears finished with a 1-11 overall record under head coach Sonny Dykes. They finished last in their division and dead last in the PAC.

How Many Bowl Games Have the Golden Bears Appeared In?

The Golden Bears have played in 24 total bowl games. They currently have a 12-11-1 overall record. Their most recent bowl game came in 2019 where they squared off against the University of Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. They beat the Fighting Illini 35-20.
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