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Head coach Sonny Dykes fired, with Cal saying it wants ‘commitment’

Well, that was unexpected.

NCAA Football: California at Oregon State Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Cal coach Sonny Dykes has been reportedly fired, just weeks before National Signing Day. The Golden Bears went 5-7 this season, giving him a final record of 19-30. Said athletic director Mike Williams in a statement:

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. ... 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. ... After our bowl win last season, we showed our commitment to him with a contract extension. But after looking at a number of factors after the end of this season, I felt that we needed a change of direction for the good of our student-athletes and our program. I understand that the timing may not be ideal – it rarely is. We did not want to make this decision until we were ready and did so for the health of our football program and department.

Dykes had been rumored to various Texas coaching jobs over the last couple years. It’s doubtful that has sat well with the brass in Berkley, but his roots are in and near the Lone Star State.

Below are some excerpts from Dykes’ statement that was released a few hours after his firing.

I have reached out to my players to encourage them to finish what we started. I told them what an honor it has been to be their coach. I encouraged them to keep working hard and doing things the right way. Leaving my players is without question the hardest part of the process.

I am comforted, however, that I leave this program in much better shape than when I arrived four years ago. i am confident Cal will find a great coach to lead these great young men. They deserve nothing less. As for me, change is unfortunately a constant in this profession. I have a great passion for what I do and how I do it. I look forward to the next chapter.

The timing of the firing is surprising, to say the least.

Dykes’ time at Cal included the entire three-year playing career of quarterback Jared Goff, who emerged from Dykes’ air raid to be the NFL Draft’s top pick last spring. The Bears have some problems, but they’re a fun watch, at least.

He is an offensive mind by trade, and his teams have generally reflected as much. Cal scores a ton of points and plays precious little defense. Earlier this year, the Bears played a game against Oregon that featured the highest Vegas over/under of this era, and then the Bears and Ducks went over it.

Of course, the internet is just hoping for Chip Kelly’s Pac-12 return:

Dykes’ Texas Tech coaching stint lasted seven years, and he played there before that. Dykes is from Big Spring, Texas, and his coaching career started at the Navarro College in Corsicana. Louisiana Tech is less than two hours from Texas’ eastern border, and Dykes has recruited plenty in the state at pretty much every stop. (That Cal only has seven Texans this year is a bit of a surprise.)

Dykes started coaching wide receivers at Texas Tech in 2000, and he left Lubbock in 2006 after serving two years as the Red Raiders’ co-offensive coordinator. He then spent three years running Arizona’s offense under Mike Stoops before leaving to become the head coach at Louisiana Tech for the 2010 season.

Dykes’ Bulldogs won 17 games in the last two of his three years there, at one point reaching No. 19 in the AP Poll. He was the now-defunct WAC football coach of the year in 2011. Cal hired him away before 2013, and while his inaugural year in Berkeley was a 1-11 disaster, things have gotten a lot better.

Dykes’ last Louisiana Tech team gave up 39 points a game but scored 52, which is probably why Cal wanted him to replace Jeff Tedford. Nobody at all is expecting Dykes to field teams that win defensive slugfests. But he can play in a shootout with just about anyone, and that’s kept him in good standing all these years.