California prepares for season-opening trip to Australia
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Before California coach Sonny Dykes could even think about designing a game plan for the season opener against Hawaii, he had to devise a strategy to deal with playing a game on the other side of the world.
Dykes and the Golden Bears will put that plan in place starting Saturday when they leave for their longest road trip ever in advance of the opener next Saturday in Sydney, Australia, against Hawaii.
Cal had to deal with everything from getting passports for all the players and coaches, making sure to pack enough equipment with no readily available replacements nearby in Australia and coming up with a plan to deal with the 17-hour time change and 15-hour flight.
''There's just a lot of logistical things that have to happen,'' Dykes said Friday, the day before the team was set to depart.
The plan for handling the game begins on Saturday when the Bears will hold a late afternoon practice before having a team dinner and heading to the airport for the 11:30 p.m. flight to Australia. The hope is that practice and the late flight will allow players to get to sleep soon after boarding the plane so they will be rested when the flight is scheduled to land at 7:30 a.m. Monday Australia time.
''The idea is to get them in their seats pretty quickly, let them wind down, let them get to sleep and then we'll get them up after about six or seven hours and start moving them around a little bit,'' Dykes said.
The Virgin Australia 777 plane will have about 70 empty seats to make sure that everyone has enough room to spread out and sleep. The linemen will be mostly in business class so they have more room.
California offensive lineman Chris Borrayo appreciates getting extra room on the plane but is focused more on crossing off a ''bucket list'' item of visiting another continent.
''I'm not worried about what seat I am going to be in. I'm just excited to go to Sydney,'' he said.
The players will wear compression pants on the flight and there will be hourly food and drink service to make sure that everyone is well-fed and well-hydrated.
''When you're dealing with a lot of 300-pound guys, you better have a lot of food,'' Dykes said. ''I know there's been a lot of attention to detail that's gone into the travel.''
After arriving, the Bears will head straight to practice as Dykes hopes to keep the players awake until Monday night so they get quickly acclimated to the time change.
The rest of the week will include morning meetings followed by mid-day practices most days, leaving the players free time in the afternoon and evening to explore Sydney. There will be a team trip to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and individual time as well for players who want to go to the famous Sydney Opera House or go surfing like their coach.
''Honestly, this is my senior year and I'm here to win a football game,'' quarterback Davis Webb said. ''That's the way I'm approaching it. I'll walk around Sydney, see the culture and embrace it and maybe eat lamb because everybody talks about that.''
The planning for the trip began last year when athletic director Mike Williams went to Australia with the men's basketball team on a summer tour. He met with officials there and sensed the excitement for American football. Williams said the school will make in excess of $1 million more from this game than a comparable nonconference home game.
The deal was finalized in November and Dykes began preparing for it last January soon after the 2015 season ended. Cal sent advance staff over to Australia to scout out a practice site, the game stadium and a team hotel. They had to deal with issues as seemingly minor as making sure there was enough banquet space at the team hotel for meetings.
But he feels all that extra planning is well worth it for the experience.
''When you have an opportunity as an 18-year-old to go across the world to a different continent, see a completely different culture, explore a place you might never have had an opportunity to explore, just the impact that can have on your life is great,'' Dykes said. ''The value of that, you can't determine that.''