Avinash: First of all, I would rent out Memorial Stadium for nightly events in the offseason to pay off the debt while incurring daily NIMBY lawsuits. Kendrick Lamar concert? Random soccer friendlies? An abbreviated musical performance of the hit Broadway play Wicked? Let's do it.
What I'm trying to say is I would be a terrible, vindictive athletic director. I'd be the Caligula of Cal athletics, which is only a slight step up from Bob Bockrath.
I'd offer Sonny Dykes a one or two year extension as good services for dealing with the absurd mess he was given. These are still mostly Tedford recruits he's working with offensively so we haven't seen what his recruits will do. We've seen the leap Mike Leach has made after three forgettable years. Maybe Dykes and Franklin can do the same.
But there are conditions I'd put in place too.
He must produce another bowl season in a transition year, or he waives certain clauses in his buyout in case it's preferable that we let him go at the end of 2016. Give him a chance to succeed or fail with his players, but make it clear that any huge step backward will not be tolerated.
If he's not happy with that, call his bluff and let him test the waters. Be satisfied that he's turned things around to a modest respect, but that he has a ways to go to earn our trust that he's the guy going forward. That seems generally fair.
ragnarok: I think both Avi and Twist are rightfully ambivalent about Coach Dykes's long-term future, based just on his record and accomplishments, but at the end of year 3 of a 5-year contract, in this business, I think the AD needs to have a more definitive answer to whether Dykes is the guy or not. Head coaches aren't just interested in job security for its own sake; it also comes up in recruiting, as kids want to know who they're going to be playing for in 4-5 years, assistants would like some semblance of job security as well, and in general, the fewer course corrections your program makes, the better. You may not be convinced if Dykes is the long-term answer at Cal, but to my mind, if you make a move that indicates such an ambivalence (such as a lame 1-year extension, or, even worse, declining to extend him at all), you're basically putting everyone on notice that the program might be blown up in twelve month's time, and coaches, players and recruits will all factor that into whatever decisions they have to make.
If I'm the AD, I need to spend the next month deciding if Dykes is my guy or not, and then acting on that decision. Talk to everyone, and be able to answer the question "Is the program heading where we need to get to with Dykes at the helm?" Are we recruiting kids talented enough to compete in the Pac-12, but also smart enough to compete in the classroom at Berkeley? Are we effectively coaching those kids? Are we winning the right way, and minimizing scandals, arrests, and other bad press associated with the program? I just don't think you can let Dykes get into year 4 of his contract without making some sort of judgement on his future.
If you think Dykes is your guy, make a commitment to him, preferably before the next signing period ends. Grant a real extension, and some more money for assistants, ensuring continuity for the program and keeping it on its upward path. Make sure Dykes knows you want him here long-term. If you think he'll be regularly winning bowl games and competing for the Pac-12 North in the future, you might get him at a discount now, given that he has yet to achieve either of those milestones.
If you don't think Dykes is your guy, then the play is a little more awkward. You probably can't fire him at this point (nor should you), but you could fail to show him a commitment on the part of the athletic department, which will probably lead to him leaving on his own. If you were concerned about PR, you could offer him a crummy extension (say, one year at a small raise, basically prolonging the department's ambivalence) and when he correctly interprets that as a lack of confidence, you can let him walk while saying you tried to save him.
Finally, if you're somewhere in the middle, where you generally like what you've seen so far, but want to see more before committing big dollars long-term, you could go somewhere in between, offering him a real extension in terms of years, but heavily incentivize raises or additional years based on reaching real milestones (like 10 wins or a berth in the Pac-12 title game). If Dykes believes in the program, I think he'll be ok with this sort of incentive-laden deal, and I think it represents a real commitment while still giving the program a reasonable "out" if Dykes fails to continue the upward momentum he's build in the first three years.
A.W. Johnston: I would ask a lot of questions to try and familiarize myself with the staff as well as current players. I would spend time interviewing graduating seniors and assistant coaches. I would take a deep dive into the program itself so as the new AD I knew exactly what we needed to be improved upon. That way, when I met with Sonny I could give him both a congratulations and some places to improve.
Perhaps my ultimate strategy would be to buy him a congratulatory beer to celebrate his effort in turning around the program and let him know he has the universities support. Academics come first at Cal and he has created a culture of student athletes that was sorely missed from years past.
However, there are a couple things I would like to improve. First of all, no extension talks in the middle of the season. Whether that is your agent or some close friend driving those rumors, please cut that out. The last thing this team needs is a distraction and I want you as the coach to have faith that we will do right by you. Secondly, how do we improve this team specifically to compete better against the California schools. We need to do whatever it takes to remove the donut from our in state record over the past three seasons. And finally, I would ask what Sonny would like to see from me. This is a two way street and both of us can continue to build this working relationship together.
I would extend a two year extension so long as he answered those questions well. I would also let him know that he has raised the bar and we will expect the upward trend to continue towards our goal of playing in the Rose Bowl.