Cal hires Sonny Dykes to begin new era in Berkeley

Sleepy, picturesque Strawberry Canyon needed a coach to return the football program to its winning ways. In hiring Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech, Cal snagged somebody who should be able to do just that and provide a few offensive fireworks along the way.

Cal’s quick, painless search for a new football coach wrapped up Wednesday evening as the school agreed to a deal with Dykes, bringing a rising star in the coaching ranks back to the West Coast.

Golden Bears athletic director Sandy Barbour wanted to move quickly and did so, making one of the major hires this offseason. A press conference to introduce Dykes is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. PT and will air live on Pac-12 Networks. The press conference also will live stream on Pac-12.com.

"Sonny Dykes is one of the brightest offensive minds in the country, running a high-octane style of football, one that I'm certain will allow our student-athletes to thrive and that our community will love on gameday," Barbour said in a release late Wednesday. "However, it was far more than his history of a top-ranked offense and his proven success on the football field that solidified my decision; it was the way he described his responsibility to the University at large and his commitment to creating a climate of comprehensive excellence and success for his student-athletes. We discussed the unique place that Berkeley and Cal Athletics occupy in higher education, standing for both academic and athletic excellence. Above all, Sonny values the opportunity to develop relationships with and have an impact on his student-athletes, staff and community."

In hiring Dykes, Barbour managed to check off nearly every box on her wish list to replace Jeff Tedford. While in Ruston, the Bulldogs improved their Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores under Dykes, a key point given the Golden Bears’ slide in the same measurement over the past few years. Louisiana Tech knocked off several BCS conference opponents during his time at the school, won a WAC title last year and the team improved its record all three seasons Dykes was in charge.

"I am excited for the opportunity to become head coach at the University of California," Dykes said. "Cal offers one of the best combinations of athletics and academics in the country, and a passionate fan base to match. I'm looking forward to bringing our exciting and enthusiastic brand of football to Berkeley. Our objectives are numerous. In addition to winning football games, we will strive to develop the total student-athlete in the classroom, on the field of play and in the campus and local communities. We want a win-everywhere mentality."

Dykes is no stranger to Pac-12 football, having been a successful coordinator at Arizona for several successful seasons out in Tuscon. A disciple of current Washington State coach Mike Leach, Dykes brings a flashy offense and a high-quality coaching pedigree. He is the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes.

Around the conference, defensive coordinators will no doubt grow a few more gray hairs when they hear of the hire. The Bulldogs finished first in the country in total offense and nearly upset No. 9 Texas A&M during the regular season in a wild, back-and-forth game. Dykes isn’t just about throwing the ball all over the place however, as he features a balanced offense that has no issue establishing the run. His team ranked 18th in the country on the ground and also had one of the better offensive lines in the nation, surrendering just 10 sacks.

There are still questions to be answered with the hire however. For one, if Cal is fully committed to its football program under Dykes then there will have to be a large pool of money for his assistants. Facilities are on par with most of the Pac-12 which puts a lot of pressure on the department to up the ante to hire (and, later, keep) some quality coaches.

Who becomes the new defensive coordinator will also be on everybody’s mind as Dykes has never had a top-notch one. While offensive consistency has been an issue in Berkeley the past few seasons, the defense has not and there are some very good pieces on that side of the ball. Finding somebody to properly use them in a league full of offensive weapons will be key if the Golden Bears have hired a coach for the long term.

Cal players will no doubt be excited to hear who their new head coach is, especially those on offense. The fan base, likewise, can’t wait to see what the team looks like when spring rolls around. Dykes is known as a good recruiter and with about two months left before Signing Day, will have his work cut out to reel in a quality class in February. Luckily athletes in-state are a bit easier to come by recruiting out of the Bay Area than they were at his last stop.

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