BERKELEY -- When things went badly for Sonny Dykes in his first year at a new job, he did the natural thing. Cal's football coach phoned his dad.

Spike Dykes, who spent 13 seasons at Texas Tech, wasn't the only coach who provided offseason counsel to Sonny Dykes as he tried to regroup after the Bears' 1-11 performance last fall.

"The hardest thing for me has been getting over it," Sonny Dykes said. "Because as a coach, that's your identity. That's who you are."

No one wants to look in the mirror and see 1-11, so after last season Dykes figured he'd benefit from the advice of coaches who have seen it all. He talked with the likes of Bill Snyder, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops and Dick Tomey, and his dad.

Their message: "You've got to believe in what you're doing," Dykes said.

Few coaches have had their self-belief tested more strenuously than Kansas State's Snyder, who in 1989 took over what Sports Illustrated once called college football's worst program. K-State had enjoyed just four winning seasons in the 44 years before Snyder arrived.

The Wildcats went 1-10 his first season.

"Our situation was such that even though we won only one game, that was one better than they'd won in the previous two years," Snyder said, referring to the Wildcats' combined record of 0-21-1 in 1987 and '88. "All we had to do was take a step off the ground and we'd made improvements."

K-State was 7-4 by Snyder's third season and after 22 years he is 178-90-1 and going strong.

"It was far more difficult for Sonny than it was for us," Snyder said.

That's because expectations were higher in Berkeley, where previous coach Jeff Tedford developed eight bowl teams in 11 years before his regime lost momentum. That only made it tougher for Spike Dykes to watch his son's team struggle week after week.

Spike never endured a season worse than 4-7 while compiling a record of 82-62-1 at Texas Tech.

"It was hard because you hurt for him," said Spike, 76, who spent this week watching Cal's spring workouts.

Sonny Dykes knows his father shared the disappointment of last season.

"The father-son relationship always trumps everything else. As hard as it was for me last year, I'm not sure it wasn't harder on him, just because he wants it badly for you," Sonny said. "He's going through what we (as family) went through all those years when I was younger, where you don't have any control over the situation."

Alluding to Sonny's past successes, including a 17-8 record his final two seasons at Louisiana Tech, Spike said his son didn't forget how to coach in one season.

"Every once in awhile all the wheels just fly off," he said. "When I had bad seasons, and I think this is what nearly everybody does, you self-evaluate anything you did. Where did we fail and how did we fail?"

Dykes did that and made changes that included replacing three members of his coaching staff. Foremost, he hired Art Kaufman to replace Andy Buh as defensive coordinator after the Bears allowed an average of 45.9 points per game.

"You're not looking for alibis. You're just looking for a way to get the pump to pump water," Spike Dykes said.

Tomey won 183 games in 29 seasons at Hawaii, Arizona and San Jose State, but said sometimes a season can "spiral out of control on you quickly."

He encouraged Dykes to forge ahead now that he's made necessary changes.

"He's had a great background and proven himself at a tough place in La Tech," said Tomey, who has known Dykes for 25 years. "He just needs to keep trusting his own instincts. I have great belief in Sonny Dykes."

Snyder understands the turmoil Dykes might be experiencing. After his first season in Manhattan, Kan., he was warned, "You better get out of there or you're going to be in insurance."

Snyder stuck it out and assembled nine seasons of 10 wins or more.

"I knew at that time we were going to be a good football team. I think Sonny feels the same way," he said. "In my dialogue with him he's been very, very positive. I think he's going to be fine."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.