BERKELEY -- Though Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour fell in love, in the professional sense, with her new football coach last month during a three-hour interview, Sonny Dykes should know he won't have it so easy with everyone else.
He isn't a marquee name from a high-profile school, so he will need to be sensational quickly to win over skeptical Cal alumni and discerning Bay Area football fans.
He is a native Texan who has spent his life and entire 19-year career roaming the red states, so he will have to make profound adjustments for the peculiar culture and social rhythms of the deep blue People's Republic of Berkeley.
Inasmuch as Dykes arrives after a very good three-year turn, it was achieved at Louisiana Tech, hardly a national powerhouse, so he will have to show he can work his magic in the increasingly competitive Pac-12.
Dykes, 43, has never coached in a BCS bowl game, is without an impeccable college résumé, without an NFL pedigree, without a national profile comparable to most of the coaches recently lured to the Pac-12 and -- this is historically significant -- without a deep familiarity with the West Coast recruiting trail.
In regard to these desirable and fairly conventional credentials for a Cal coach, Barbour went 0 for 5.
Yet she is unfazed.
"There's always risk," she said. "But the beauty of this hire, I think, is that in terms of having a particular area of risk, there's
"But I have to tell you I have an extreme amount of confidence in this man and his ability to put together a staff that's going to take care of our student-athletes and lead them in a big and wonderful way ... in a way that fits Cal."
That puts the onus squarely on Dykes, who was selected after a 16-day process during which at least six candidates were interviewed.
His challenge is to outperform the perception that Cal was unable to lure a pedigreed heavy hitter -- think Bret Bielema, who this week bolted for Arkansas after taking Wisconsin to three consecutive Rose Bowls -- to Free Spirit U.
He has to find a way to match up with schools that spend more money, because they can. If Oregon coach Chip Kelly leaves for the NFL, and he might, the Ducks will hire the best coach Nike money can buy. Washington last January lured away two Cal assistants, mostly with massive pay hikes.
Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez after 2011, partly because he came with a national presence, just as Mike Leach did upon arrival at Washington State at the same time. Everybody with a modicum of football knowledge knew Jim Harbaugh before he reached Stanford in 2007, and the same is true for Jim Mora when he was hired at UCLA before this season.
This is the much bigger pond, with much bigger fish, in which Dykes, whose only experience away from the South was three years as offensive coordinator at Arizona, now swims.
Universally considered an excellent recruiter and a creative offensive mind emphasizing the passing game, Dykes is attractive because his teams light up scoreboards. Louisiana Tech leads the nation in scoring (though its defense is last).
Dykes said he already has studied some of the players he inherits from former coach Jeff Tedford, and while sharing his offensive philosophy he conceded the Golden Bears have a measure of talent while also isolating at least one area in which they must improve.
"That's what our offense is all about, is finding players, finding what they can and can't do, asking them to do the things they can do and not doing the things they're not capable of doing," he said. "We're figuring out who the best guys are, and then putting them in those situations.
"We need to get bigger and more physical up front, on both sides of the line of scrimmage."
Dykes' first order of business, though, is to prove his arrival at Cal is not the embodiment of a mixed message to power conferences around the nation and, specifically, the Pac-12.
Mixed message, as in, Cal really wants to compete at the highest level ... but someone from a school such as La. Tech -- which lost to San Jose State and Mike MacIntyre, a coach who also was a candidate at Cal -- was as high as Cal was willing to reach. Or, perhaps, was able to pay.
And, frankly, that may be the case. The UC system is beset with financial challenges, and Cal also has the debt of the newly remodeled Memorial Stadium, with its surrounding structure of athletic department facilities.
That, however, is not Dykes' concern. It is, rather, something he will need to use to his advantage.
It was a little more than weeks ago when Barbour, after dismissing Tedford, talked a great and bold game about Cal's ambitions, her words conveying a commitment to national distinction.
If Dykes is not superb, and quickly, as Harbaugh was upon taking the reins at Stanford, Barbour will need a hundred barricades to protect her from the blowback.
If the new coach isn't standing before us next December talking about his wildly successful Golden Bears, his office could get cold. Almost as cold as that of his boss.