Dykes’ arrival marks new chapter in Cal football history

Tony Zhou/Staff

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Amid the downpour of dead week, excitement is in the Berkeley air.

Call it the oncoming Bear raid. Or perhaps Air Bears.

With Sonny Dykes and the “air raid” offense coming to Cal, nicknames for the 2013 Bears’ offense have already been floated throughout the campus community and blogosphere.

“What’s exciting is our brand of football is fun,” said Dykes at Thursday’s press conference introducing him as the Cal football team’s new head coach. “I can’t really begin to say how special it is to stand here as head coach at Cal … It’s a dream come true.”

But the football program is a puzzle, and at the field club at Memorial Stadium, the talk was about how the hiring of Dykes fits the pieces together.

After firing Jeff Tedford on Nov. 20 following a 3-9 season, Athletics Director Sandy Barbour formed a search advisory committee that included student-athletes, football alumni, faculty members and other coaches. The group, which did not interview candidates or even mention names, came up with a consensus on the personal characteristics, values and experience the new coach should have.

Barbour said that Dykes — the Louisiana Tech head coach who, in three seasons, led the squad to a 22-15 record and a league title in 2011 — was whom they had in mind in that room on Nov. 26.

“You’ve read all the statistics, but until you meet the man and spend time with him and probe his values and hopes and dream … you don’t know what an incredible fit he is to lead the young men in this program,” Barbour said. “His win-everywhere mentality is ultimately what has brought coach Dykes to Berkeley.”

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance John Wilton, who along with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau advised Barbour during the selection process, called Dykes the first choice. Barbour said she interviewed numerous candidates but kept coming back to Dykes after his initial interview.

“When he walked out of the room, I said to myself, ‘I think that’s the guy,’” Barbour said.

Dykes said there were a lot of viable coaching jobs available, but he was interested in Cal from the onset.

“Cal has a commitment to excellence,” he said, “a commitment to win every single day and in every single way.”

Dykes’ Louisiana Tech squad led the nation in scoring this past season. As a position coach and offensive coordinator from 2000-09, he helped transform Texas Tech and Arizona into offensive juggernauts with his explosive shotgun-based spread offense.

Dykes said success comes with putting the best players on the field, whether that is seven offensive linemen or five receivers. It is a simple offense, he said, one that is predicated on taking what the defense gives the team.

But for all his pedigree on the offensive end, Louisiana Tech ranked No. 119 in defense in 2012. Dykes said that hiring a defensive coordinator would be his most important hire.

“I’m gonna go get the best, bring him here and combine great defense with great offense with great special teams and try to go win a championship,” Dykes said.

Besides the Bears’ 3-9 season in 2012, the squad has the league’s worst graduation rate at 48 percent. Dykes said he believes there is a direct correlation to success in academics and athletics. That was a point of focus when he met with the team earlier in the day.

As for the next few weeks, Dykes will be off recruiting — both players and coaches. He hopes to have his staff mostly complete by Christmas, with as many as three or four hopefully hired by Monday. He plans to interview Cal assistants.

In recruiting athletes, he said getting the state of California is paramount to the program’s success.

For now, Barbour is glad that her search is over, and a whirlwind two days has ended for Dykes.

“We’ll look back at it all and say it was the best 48 hours of my life,” he said.

Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]

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  • loverpoint

    There is talk that Dykes is going to hire DeWayne Walker as his Defensive coordinator ( ex head coach of New Mexico St. 1-11 ). He has hired Tony Franklin his old offensive coordinator from Louisiana Tech.

  • libsrclowns

    More Dykes at Cal…perfect

  • loverpoint

    Cal players for the last few years have not been motivated – that is evidenced by the low numbers of players that have been graduating. No one knows for sure how Sonny will Fare but one thing is for certain, he will be making far less than Tedford.

  • Spitfire27

    This guy didn’t win that many games at Louisiana Tech, says its going to take a long time to turn things around (if he ever even will) AND WE HIRED HIM!!!!!!!! Maybe someone should have had Sandy Barbour take a look at the jobs Jim Harbaugh and Jim Mora have done. The Cal football team has been able to recruit great players while suffering from a lack of momentum and excitement. Maybe I’m wrong, but this guy doesn’t seem to have that either. I’m very disappointed.

  • guest

    I think this a great hire. No doubt Cal will score points. Defensively, Cal has better athletes than LaTech, so I feel they shouldn’t be as bad as LaTech’s D. Cal’s defense this year did suck though, thanks to Pretendergrass. It was obvious that the players were unhappy with him, and it showed in points allowed. Cal will surprise people.

    • loverpoint

      I agree it is a nice situation for Dykes to be stepping into- Cal does have a nice stable of talent. Although Cals 2013 recruiting class is mediocre, so far, it should be interesting to see if just from his reputation and name that Dykes will entice some 5 and 4 star recruits that are still undecided. It would also be nice if Cal could get their defensive players playing up to the level the defense played at a few years ago. I’m neutral on Pendergast- he did a good during his first year as DC . I think that Dykes should keep most of the assistant coaches and I’m sure the one job that will change is at OC- will Michalczik stay as the offensive line coach or was the only reason he came back to Cal because of the promise of the OC job from Tedford?

  • Game Over

    Hard to figure why Barbour would stake her job security on Goober here, isn’t it? She managed to find one of the few candidates who makes most look back fondly on Tedford and the one who is absolutely certain to fail. Not so sure about that? Take a look at how Leach has fared at WSU and remind yourself that this clown has the same offense; just not quite as good. Then look at the defense he managed last year, note the ranking of 119th in the nation and remind yourself that he was competing against Wac teams.

    Zach Kline? Forget about him; he’s not Sonny’s type. Gould’s 5 star RB recruit Khalfani Muhammad? SO not Sonny’s type. So who is his type? Nobody on this team and with them good ol’ Red State values and ignorance of West Coast recruiting this clown brings to the table, good luck on the recruiting front.

    Whew. This is gonna be gruesome and *this* alum is gonna try hard not to look. Since I started following this team in the Wilsey years, this looks to be the worst head coach hire that we’ve had. Considering that includes GIlbertson and Holmoe, that’s saying a lot.

    • Papa Bear

      Not going to disagree with you, but what’s done is done. You’ve put it out there that this is the worst hire possible, now we’ll see. I really hope that the AD when sincere when she said that Coach D was the best fit for Cal. If so, then good things are on the horizon. I’ll give this Coach two seasons before passing judgment. The unfortunate possibility is that the Bears may get worse before they get better due to the coaching change.

      My recollection is Leach was successful at TTU and that this is only his 2nd year at WSU.

      Coach Dykes is saying the right things – like hiring a defensive coordinator is his most important next step and playing the best players available. It seemed to me that Coach Tedford did not play his best players at important positions (QB and RB for instance).

      • loverpoint

        At least Cal will have true competition at QB, Cal has some QB’s that were highly rated recruits. They also have a decent stable of RB’s.

    • loverpoint

      Leach went to a team that has been decimated over the years and lacked talent when he signed his contract.

      It sure is nice that you declared that none of the highly ranked recruited prospects would fit in under Dykes but left out the lower ranked athletes— maybe you should ask those players if they think they can adjust to his system. If Zach Maynard was the kind of QB that Tedford felt was best suited for his offense then good riddance to both.