After four seasons and a cumulative 19-30 record, Sonny Dykes has been fired as Cal football’s head coach.
The move comes as a surprise, as Dykes signed a contract extension after the 2015 season, when he was reportedly a candidate for multiple other head-coaching positions. Most college football firings come immediately after the end of a program’s season.
Jake Spavital, who was Cal’s offensive coordinator last season, has been named interim head coach.
Most positions that were available after the end of the season have already been filled, leading sports journalists on Twitter — including former NFL pro Geoff Schwartz — to speculate that the move was made because Cal already has a replacement head coach lined up.
Schwartz, who played under former Oregon and San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly, floated Kelly — who was fired from the 49ers in another surprise move last week — as a possible replacement. CBS Sports has also made the connection between Kelly and Cal’s new vacancy.
Yahoo Sports has also reported that Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is a main target in the coaching search.
Dykes’ firing was first reported by Fox Sports, which also reported that Cal is hoping to have a replacement hired by the end of the week, suggesting that the coaching search is not starting from scratch.
Freshman cornerback Traveon Beck confirmed to The Daily Californian that Cal Athletics has not yet contacted him in regards to Dykes’s firing. Members of the team, such as Darius Allensworth and Vic Enwere, have also sent out tweets indicating that they learned of the news over Twitter as well. Enwere added that “something ain’t right.
“At this point I gotta make the decision that’s best for me life is crazy,” he tweeted.
Players have also voiced their support on Twitter for Spavital and strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington as potential replacements. Beck and Malik Psalms tweeted their support for Spavital, while Enwere and Raymond Hudson tweeted about Harrington.
“After our bowl win last season, we showed our commitment to (Dykes) 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,” said Athletic Director Mike Williams in a press release. “I understand that the timing may not be ideal — it rarely is.”
The financial situation of Cal’s athletic department ultimately played a role in the decision, according to Williams.
“All athletic departments, including Cal’s, are at a point where we need to strive to achieve financial sustainability,” Williams said at a press conference. “We can’t do that at Cal without a winning football program to give us the financial resources to go forward.”
Check back for updates.