BERKELEY, Calif. – At the urging of athletic director Sandy Barbour, Sonny Dykes pulled out a white California cap from underneath the podium and popped it on his head to accent his blue-and-gold tie and dark suit, drawing cheers from department staff that filled the Memorial Stadium room.
On his first day as Cal’s coach, Dykes definitely looked the part. The Golden Bears just hope he can garner the same reaction on game days.
Cal formally introduced Dykes as its football coach Thursday, replacing the fired Jeff Tedford after three years at Louisiana Tech. Dykes takes over a proud program with a refurbished stadium and training facilities, but also one that has failed to make a bowl in two of the past three seasons and has the lowest graduation rate (48 percent) in the Pac-12 Conference.
“We will turn it around,” Dykes said. “It’s going to be a long, arduous process. How many years is it going to take? I don’t know. Is it going to be next year? I don’t know. What’s the future hold? I can’t answer that question. But I do know that’s what’s going to drive us every day. Every single day we get in our car and come to work, our goal is going to be to get to the Rose Bowl.”
The decision to hire Dykes was easily the biggest one Barbour has made in her eight-year tenure.
Barbour said she interviewed between six and 12 candidates. She said the school and Dykes have agreed to a “term sheet,” but she will not release the contract details until it’s officially signed by all parties, which Barbour expects to happen in the coming days.
Dykes also had been vetted by a search committee, and Vice Chancellor John Wilton said Dykes was the school’s “first choice.”
More than anything, Barbour and the search committee cited Dykes’ discipline and offensive ingenuity, which critics say was sorely lacked in Berkeley in recent seasons.
The 43-year-old Dykes had a 22-15 record with the Bulldogs, improving their victory total each year. The Bulldogs averaged 35.9 points and 452.5 yards per game in his tenure.
He takes over a Cal team that went 3-9 this past season and went 34-37 in Tedford’s final 51/2 years, leading to his dismissal. Dykes inherits a roster that has some talent, most notably heralded quarterback recruit Zach Kline, who did not play as a freshman but is in line to win the starting job next season.
The new coach also will benefit from a facilities upgrade that Tedford helped engineer. Cal opened its remodeled $321 million stadium this past season that is adjacent to a $150 million on-campus High Performance Center.
“There were a lot of good jobs that were open this year,” said Dykes, adding that he interviewed for a “couple” of others but declined to name specific vacancies. “This was the one I was interested in from Day One.”
Dykes, the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, is known as an offensive mastermind who runs a spread system that he honed as coordinator under current Washington State coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech. He later spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at Arizona under Mike Stoops before becoming head coach at Louisiana Tech ahead of the 2010 season. He also coached two years as an assistant at Kentucky.