Sonny Dykes coaching career: How TCU head coach went from Mike Leach assistant to national coach of the year


TCU is a rare college football Cinderella story. Programs entering an unranked season do not mind playing under a first-year coach after a losing season, and are not expected to play at the national championships in January.

Transfer portals, which provide the ability to rebuild programs faster than ever before, are one factor in Horned Frogs’ rapid recovery. The biggest factor, however, is the coaches who actively used the portal and gave confidence to a program that had been mediocre over the past four years.

Sonny Dykes had a huge hole to fill when he replaced Gary Patterson just over a year ago. What he accomplished in his year was becoming the Consensus National Coach of the Year, reaching college football his playoffs, and taking TCU to a place never seen before.

Read more: Sporting News Coach of the Year: TCU’s Sonny Dykes spearheads rapid turnaround

how did he get here The Sporting News has taken a closer look at Dykes’ coaching career.

Where Did Sonny Dykes Coach?

Dykes has been coaching at the college level since 1997, but his biggest break came in 2000 when Texas Tech freshman head coach Mike Leach hired him as Lubbock’s wide receivers coach. Maybe.

The Red Raiders have established one of the most prolific offenses in the country, and Dykes was promoted to joint offensive coordinator before the 2005 season, along with Dana Holgosen.

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Beginning in 2006, Dykes joined the Arizona staff as offensive coordinator. The Wildcats jumped from 16.6 points in 2006 to 28.0 points in 2007 and 36.6 points in 2008. He turned his success in Arizona into a head coaching job, taking over Louisiana Tech before his 2010 season.

Dykes ultimately led Louisiana Tech to their best season in 15 years, winning 9-3 in 2012, and was hired as California’s head coach after the season.

The turnaround at Cal was not as fast as the turnaround at TCU. In his first season with the Golden Bears, he went 1-11, and in 2014 he went 5-7, but in 2015 he improved to 8-5. Dykes pushed Jared Goff to the No. 1 overall pick in the meantime.

A coach’s path to success is rarely linear. The same was true for Dykes, who was fired by Cal after 2016. When asked about doing coaching searches for both football and basketball in 2017, then-athletic director Mike Williams said in an interview that he had coaches (Dykes and Cuonzo Martin) and had a “Cal experience.” I never calmed down.

So where did it take Dykes? TCU. He spent 2017 at Fort Worth as an offensive analyst under his eventual replacement coach.

Beginning in 2017, Dykes was hired to replace Chad Morris as SMU’s head coach. The Mustang has rattled off his three straight winning seasons from 2019 to his 2021, including his 10-win season in 2019. SMU averaged over 38 points per game in each of Dykes’ last three his seasons.

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When TCU and Patterson parted ways midway through the 2021 season, it was speculated that Dykes would be a natural fit to replace him. Dykes, a Texas-born coach with extensive head coaching experience and a career in East Dallas, may have been the most predictable hire on the truly unpredictable coaching carousel.

Dykes is already building a legacy at Fort Worth after leading TCU to the brink of a national championship, earning seven National Coach of the Year honors in his first season with the Horned Frogs.

Sonny Dykes coaching record

Year school W. L. percentage
2010-2012 Louisiana Tech University twenty two 15 .595
2013-2016 California 19 30 .388
2018-2021 SMUs 30 18 .625
2022- TCU 13 1 .929
total 84 64 .568

Sonny Dykes annual salary

Dykes was reportedly hired on a six-year deal worth close to $30 million, bringing his 2022 salary to nearly $5 million.

However, TCU signed him to a new long-term extension in December and increased his salary “to get closer to the top level of the Big 12,” according to ESPN. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is believed to lead the Big 12 with $7.5 million, followed by Brent Venables with $7.25 million.

The exact details of Dykes’ new contract are still unknown, but he’s making many times his $1.3 million annual salary at SMU.





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