Sonny Dykes dismissed as Cal head coach

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday January 08, 2017

In a surprising move, Cal has dismissed head coach Sonny Dykes, CoachingSearch has confirmed. Fox Sports first reported the news.

Dykes was 19-30 in four seasons, with records of 1-11, 5-7, 8-5 and 5-7. He’d interviewed for other jobs in recent years and battled with administration in some aspects, but the move at this time in the year is surprising. One Cal source tells CoachingSearch the dismissal came out of nowhere. Dykes made a defensive coordinator change last month and was still looking for a replacement.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken says Dykes had been “nosing around coordinator jobs” a few weeks ago. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman reports that Dykes’ head coaching interviews at Missouri last year and Baylor this year didn’t sit well with the Cal administration or players.

“This was an extremely difficult decision and one that we take very seriously,” athletic director Mike Williams said in a release. “There was no rush to judgment; we wanted to be thorough and thoughtful. Ultimately, it was a combination of factors that brought us to this outcome. We are continuously evaluating our program and looking for ways to make it better – whether that's through additional academic support, recruiting, facilities, staffing, culture, leadership or anything else that can help our football program succeed.

“Primarily, we want what's best for our student-athletes and have a head coach in place who is fully committed to our program and our university.

Dykes went to Cal from Louisiana Tech and never appeared to fit in the culture. He made plays for jobs back in Texas, and USA Today reports he would have looked at LA Tech if Skip Holtz left.

Off the field, the school admitted liability in the 2014 death of player Ted Agu during a team workout during Dykes’ tenure. They improved the academic standing of the program after it had fallen into bad shape under Jeff Tedford. On the field, the record improved, and they produced No. 1 NFL pick Jared Goff, but fell back to 5-7 this year.

“I understand that the timing may not be ideal – it rarely is,” Williams said. “We did not want to make this decision until we were ready and did so for the health of our football program and department. Our objective is long-term financial sustainability for our department. In order to do this, we understand that investing in football is critical. We believe that this change will reinvigorate the program, stimulate lagging ticket sales and renewals, and energize our donor base."

Feldman reports the school hopes to have a replacement by the end of the week. The timing begs the question: Will Chip Kelly be in play? Feldman adds that Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox could get strong consideration. 

More on this as it develops. Keep track of open FBS head coaching jobs here.

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Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to