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

Quick Bit: TCU is the story no one saw coming, and first-year coach Sonny Dykes is a huge reason why. Here’s how Dykes went from relative obscurity to national coach of the year in Fort Worth.

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TCU is a rare college football Cinderella story. Programs that enter a season unranked, nevermind coming off a losing season and playing under a first-year coach, aren’t supposed to be playing for a national championship in January.

The transfer portal, giving programs the ability to rebuild quicker than ever before, is one factor in the Horned Frogs’ rapid turnaround. The biggest factor, though, is the coach who aggressively used the portal and injected a wave of confidence into what had been a mediocre program for the last four years.

Sonny Dykes had big shoes to fill when he replaced Gary Patterson just over a year ago. All he’s done in a year is become the consensus national coach of the year, reach the College Football Playoff, and take TCU somewhere it hasn’t been before – not even under Patterson, who produced 11 double-digit win seasons.

MORE: Sporting News Coach of the Year: TCU’s Sonny Dykes spearheads quick turnaround

How did he get here? The Sporting News takes a deeper look at Dykes’ coaching career.

Where has Sonny Dykes coached?

Dykes has been coaching at the collegiate level since 1997, but his biggest break might have come in 2000 when first-year Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach hired him to be his wide receivers coach in Lubbock.

The Red Raiders established one of the most prolific offenses in the country, and Dykes would be promoted to co-offensive coordinator alongside Dana Holgorsen before the 2005 season.

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After 2006, Dykes joined Arizona’s staff as offensive coordinator. The Wildcats jumped from 16.6 points per game in 2006 to 28.0 in 2007 and 36.6 in 2008. He would turn his success at Arizona into a head coaching job, taking over at Louisiana Tech before the 2010 season.

Dykes ultimately guided Louisiana Tech to its best season in 15 years when he went 9-3 in 2012, and he was hired as the head coach at California after the season.

The turnaround at Cal was, well, not as quick as the turnaround at TCU. The Golden Bears went 1-11 in Dykes’ first season and 5-7 in 2014, but they would improve to 8-5 in 2015. Dykes helped mold Jared Goff into the No. 1 overall pick during that time.

The path to success for coaches is rarely linear. That was true for Dykes, who was fired by Cal after 2016. Then-athletic director Mike Williams later said in an interview when asked about conducting both a football and basketball coaching search in 2017 that he had coaches (Dykes and Cuonzo Martin) who had never settled into the “Cal experience.”

So where did that take Dykes? TCU. He spent 2017 as an offensive analyst in Fort Worth under the coach he’d eventually replace.

After 2017, Dykes was hired to replace Chad Morris as SMU’s head coach. The Mustangs rattled off three consecutive winning seasons from 2019-2021, including a 10-win season in 2019. SMU averaged north of 38 points per game in each of Dykes’ final three seasons.

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When TCU and Patterson parted ways midway through the 2021 season, Dykes was speculated as the natural fit to take his place. As a Texas-born coach with plenty of head coaching experience who was thriving just a few miles east in Dallas, Dykes might have been the most predictable hire in what was truly an unpredictable coaching carousel.

Dykes racked up seven national coach of the year honors in his first season leading the Horned Frogs, and he’s already building a legacy in Fort Worth after taking TCU to the precipice of a national championship.

Sonny Dykes coaching record

2010 – 2012
Louisiana Tech
2013 – 2016
2018 – 2021
2022 –


Sonny Dykes salary

Dykes was reportedly hired on a six-year contract worth “close to” $30 million, putting his salary for 2022 near $5 million.

However, TCU signed him to a new long-term extension in December, increasing his salary “to be near the top levels of the Big 12,” according to ESPN. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is believed to lead the way in the Big 12 with a $7.5 million annual salary, followed by Brent Venables at $7.25 million annually.

While we don’t yet know the exact details of Dykes’ new deal, he will be making many times more than his $1.3 million annual salary at SMU.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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