BERKELEY, Calif. — California fired coach Sonny Dykes in a surprise move on Sunday after four seasons that produced just one bowl appearance.
Dykes left Louisiana Tech to replace Jeff Tedford and took over the struggling Cal program in 2013, but could never get the Bears turned around. They went 8-5 in 2015, but then slid back to 5-7 this season.
“This was an extremely difficult decision and one that we take very seriously,” athletic director Mike Williams said 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.”
Fox Sports first reported Dykes had been fired.
Dykes and the administration seemed to be at odds after that 2015 season during a prolonged negotiation of a contract extension. The deal was finally worked out and Dykes’ deal was extended through the 2019 season. Dykes is owed more than $5 million under terms of the deal finalized in March.
Dykes finished his tenure with a 19-30 record, including 10-26 in the Pac-12.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will serve as interim coach.
Speculation will now turns to Dykes’ successor, with former Oregon and San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly’s name likely to be linked to the job. After a dominant run at Oregon, Kelly had less success in the NFL and was fired earlier this month by the 49ers, a year after being dismissed by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bears had been consistent winners for nearly a decade under Tedford, with only one losing season from 2002-09. Things started to slip after that. The athletic department struggled financially and the football team’s Academic Progress Rating of 930 was the worst in the Pac-12 at the end of Tedford’s tenure.
The academics bounced back under Dykes, posting APRs of 969, 946 and 997 the past three years to raise the four-year average to 960 — the program’s highest since 2008-09. But on the field there were few victories, despite record-breaking offenses. With quarterback Jared Goff, the Bears were one of the most prolific teams in the country but only managed one bowl appearance. Cal beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl last season.
“Coach Dykes clearly built up our program — both on the field and in the classroom — and he leaves Cal in a stronger position than when he arrived,” Williams said. “For that alone, he deserves credit and our thanks. 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.”
Goff went first overall in the NFL draft last year and transfer Davis Webb stepped in to keep Cal’s offense rolling. The defense, however, was again one of the worst in the country, ranking 122nd in yards per play.
In four seasons under Dykes, the Bears never ranked better than 102nd in the nation in yards per play allowed.
“We want to win championships,” Williams said. “The success of our football program is vital to both our department and our university community, and its influence can be felt well beyond Berkeley.”