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December 5, 2012

Cal hires Sonny Dykes as new head football coach



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BERKELEY -- On Wednesday, the California football coaching search ended with the announcement that Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes would take over for the Bears' skipper of 11 years Jeff Tedford.

"I am excited for the opportunity to become head coach at the University of California," Dykes said in a statement. "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 bring 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."

Dykes informed his players in a team meeting on Wednesday evening that he would be taking the Bears job, and shortly thereafter, the Cal coaches on the road recruiting were called back home.

Several months ago, a source familiar with Dykes's thinking indicated that Dykes -- the son of Texas Tech coaching legend Spike Dykes -- was very interested in the Cal job, indicating that he'd rather coach in the Pac-12 than in the SEC.

Dykes -- 43 -- is 22-15 as a head coach since taking over for the Bulldogs in 2010, following stints as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona from 2007-2009, as a wide receivers coach at Texas Tech from 2004 and the co-OC for the Red Raiders from 2005-2006.

This past season, Louisiana Tech boasted one of the nation's most explosive offense, churning out 6,935 total yards (6.58 yards per play), ranking second in the nation in total yards and touchdowns (84) and averaging 577.92 yards per game -- also second in the nation.

While Dykes runs a variation of the Air Raid offense made famous at Texas Tech, a source said that he made a point of having offensive coordinator Tony Franklin include a robust running game in the scheme. That rushing attack ranked 18th in the nation with 2,726 yards (5.23 yards per carry) and averaged 227.17 yards per game. A source says that Dykes is expected to bring Franklin with him to Berkeley.

Though the Bulldogs did not utilize tight ends much during his time in Ruston, while at Arizona, Dykes was the maestro that produced current New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. As a true freshman in 2007, Gronkowski recorded 28 catches for 525 yards and six touchdowns, setting a school record for receiving yards by a tight end. In 2008, Gronkowski caught 47 balls for 672 yards and a team-best 10 touchdowns. Two of the tight ends currently on the Bears roster -- Richard Rodgers and Spencer Hagan -- have receiving backgrounds, as does 2013 commit Ray Hudson.

This season, Dykes's senior quarterback Colby Cameron ranked second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 4,147 passing yards, and posted a 68.77 percent completion rate, while gaining 7.94 yards per passing attempt and 11.55 yards per completion. Cameron tossed 31 touchdowns to just five picks.

Dykes also produced the nation's 32nd most prolific tailback in Kenneth Dixon. As a freshman, Dixon rushed for 1,194 yards and 27 touchdowns, averaging 99.5 yards per game.

Several sources indicate that Dykes -- who's Louisiana Tech squad ranked 120th in the FBS in defense this year -- would bring on former UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker to fill that same role at Cal. In three seasons as the head of the Bruins defense, Walker's unit averaged 331.7 yards surrendered per game, a mark that would place it second in the Pac-12 this season. Walker is currently the head coach at New Mexico State, where he's been the skipper since 2009. Walker served as the defensive backs coach at Cal from 1996-1997, and coached defensive backs in 2001 under Pete Carroll at USC, before moving to the NFL to coach DBs for the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.

Several sources have indicated that if Walker is hired as the defensive coordinator, he would retain Ashley Ambrose and bring back defensive line coach Todd Howard.

Dykes was scheduled to make $752,000 in 2013 for Louisiana Tech, plus performance bonuses, and was signed through 2017. No details have yet been made available on Dykes's contract with Cal.

Dykes was chosen by athletic director Sandy Barbour from a final three that included current Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach and former Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and current Carolina Panthers head coach -- and Cal alum -- Ron Rivera. Rivera was considered by Barbour as one of the top choices, but knew that the timing would be problematic.

"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 statement. "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."

A source says that Dykes turned down head coaching jobs from Purdue (for which he was one of the first candidates), Kentucky and possibly NC State before he was awarded the Cal job.


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