There is an old, well used saying that says “what goes around comes around” and in the carousel that is the world of college football coaching, this saying is true. Coach Gary Patterson has parted ways with the Horned Frogs and leaves a legacy of being the winningest coach in TCU history. But history is exactly that – history. If your program isn’t winning, football coaches know what comes next and that usually means a change in job status from hired to fired.
In the case of TCU, the firing of Coach Patterson ushers in the Sonny Dykes era. Who is Sonny Dykes and why did he move to the front of the line to become the next Horned Frogs head coach? In case you slightly recognize the last name Dykes, Sonny is the son of legendary coach Spike Dykes who built a legacy of high school and college football, culminating in his years at the helm at Texas Tech from 1986 to 1999. Sonny Dykes was brought up in Texas Tech football and graduated from there. Incidentally, Texas Tech contacted Dykes about replacing Matt Wells before moving on to hire Baylor assistant Joey McGuire.
Sonny Dykes spent years moving up the coaching ranks and started at J.J. Pearce High School in DFW and then on to Navarro Junior College in Corsicana before landing positions with Northeast Louisiana (now ULM) and Kentucky. While at Kentucky, Dykes worked under the legendary Hal Mumme, the godfather of the Air Raid offense. College coaches tend to circle back to where they started and in 2000 Dykes landed back in Lubbock as a Wide Receivers coach under another Air Raid proponent in head coach Mike Leach. By 2005, Dykes was a co-Offensive Coordinator with Dana Holgorsen (another familiar name in current Texas college football) and Dykes had the opportunity to coach players such as Wes Welker who went on to NFL fame and Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.
In 2007, Dykes sensed another opportunity and joined the University of Arizona staff under Mike Stoops where he had the opportunity to coach another Patriots legend in Rob Gronkowski. Becoming an offensive or defensive coordinator is usually a steppingstone to becoming a head coach and Dykes followed this pattern by becoming head coach at Louisiana Tech in 2010 where he had success including a bowl bid for the Bulldogs. The downward spiral for Dykes occurred when he moved west and took the helm at Cal Berkeley for four seasons where he posted a 19-30 record – not the thing to brag about on a coaching resume.
However, football coaches tend to have nine lives and in 2017 Dykes returned to his native Texas and became an offensive analyst for Gary Patterson at no less than TCU. The next year, Dykes was given a unique opportunity to revive (literally and figuratively) a moribund SMU football program. In 2018, SMU football had barely begun its recovery from the 1985 NCAA “Death Penalty” and Dykes immediately set about the create a revitalization process that endeared SMU as the local college team in Dallas. Combined with a heavy marketing campaign and success on the field, the SMU brand has recovered and Dykes turned around this program into a minor football miracle including a 7-3 record in the shortened 2020 Covid season and Dykes left SMU in great shape with an 8-4 record and an invitation to play the Virginia Cavaliers in the inaugural Wasabi Fenway Bowl (which will be the first college football game ever played at historic Fenway Park in Boston.)
Dykes will no doubt bring about the same marketing campaign at TCU as he did on the other side of the DFW Metroplex while at SMU. Furthermore, Dykes seems eager to make TCU a top brand name by actively joining the Texas recruiting war for top-notch recruits:
At the end of the day the big part of having success is acquiring talent. You have the best high school football players in the United States in your own backyard; how does it get any better than that? That’s something that I think is a great opportunity for us because there’s going to be an emphasis on recruiting local kids. When you go around the country and have a chance to see high school football like I have in so many different states, you just realize how good it is here in Texas. –Sonny Dykes, 11/30/21