What happens if Cal coach Justin Wilcox is not available for a game?

That question did not seem relevent until last week, when Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in isolation at home. Saban was eventually cleared to be on the sidelines for Saturday's game against Georgia after three consecutive negative tests, suggesting the first test was a false positive.

But it pointed out a need for contingency plans for coaches like Wilcox, just in case he or an assistant tests positive.

And Wilcox said he has contingency plans.

"Yeah, for all of us, we do," Wilcox said. "We have coaching contingencies, obviously player contingencies. I don't know that you can model every single scenario, because there's a lot of them."

"We have a great staff in place, and we have plans if any of us aren't able to be there for practice or a game."

A head coach can monitor practice via Zoom, and call into a staff member if he sees something that needs correcting during those workouts, which is what Saban did.

However, on game day, a coach who is not present at the stadium cannot have any contact with coaches or players. Rule 1-4-11-b allows only voice communication between the press box and the team area, so a coach who is at home could not call into the press box or sideline for anything related to coaching.

If Wilcox is not present, who would make the game-situation decisions, such as whether to go for it on fourth down, or accept a penalty, or pull the quarterback?

"We would break it up between offense, defense and special teams," Wilcox said. "It would be a group effort and everybody would have reponsibilities."

But surely one person would be designated to make the final call on critical decisions.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who was a head coach at Washington and USC, was designated to to run practices in Saban's absence and presumably he would have acted as head coach against Georgia in Saban's absence.

Wilcox did not say who that person would be for Cal, but the best guess is that it would be Tim DeRuyter. He carries the title of associate head coach and is the only person on the staff with previous head coaching experience, having been the head coach at Fresno State for four and half years before coming to Cal.

The chances of Wilcox missing a game because he contracted COVID-19 are small, but in this season of uncertainty, coaches need to have a plan for every possible situation.

Cal opens its seven-game conference-only schedule on Nov. 7 at home against Washington. 


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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