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ESPN Insider claims Sonny Dykes returning to Cal in 2016 would be a surprise

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Hm.

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The chatter is intensifying. After the USA Today mentioned some discontent about Sonny Dykes potentially looking at other programs, Travis Haney of ESPN Insider stoked fuel to the fire (article behind paywall.

As for Cal, Sonny Dykes actually had an eye trained on the job market a year ago. The uncertainty of going a year-plus without an AD created a great deal of tension, and even filling that position has not solved the issues.

Those who know the program say they would be surprised if Dykes returned in 2016. If there's an opening in his home state of Texas, even at the Group of 5 level, Dykes could get in the mix.

Some things here aren't new here: Dykes is unhappy with the hands off approach of the Cal athletic department, and his relationship with athletic director Mike Williams still isn't the best.

The new piece of information here is Dykes reportedly looking for a job LAST season. That is a bit of a surprise. There was chatter about Dykes and Houston last season but it never passed the rumor stage and nothing concrete existed outside of that.

It's quite possible that these leaks are coming from Sonny's agent or someone else inside the department to try and gain bargaining leverage going into offseason extension talks.

Regardless all these rumors make it all the more imperative that the Cal athletic department has a clear plan going into the offseason. They have a few clear courses of action.

1) If they want Dykes back long-term, they need to start extension talks as soon as possible. It sounds like Dykes will be willing and able to check out various programs if Cal isn't proactive enough this offseason. They need to get the ball rolling and make sure they get things sorted out before another program can extend an offer.

2) If they want Dykes back but aren't ready to commit to any such extension when the season ends, they need to call any such bluff and let Sonny test the waters. If they're not happy with Dykes, it's clear Cal hasn't really progressed far enough to their expectations. Let Sonny see if he can get a better offer. If he does, part amicably. If he can't, let him come back and get ready for an important fourth year to prove he's the long-term solution for the Bears.

3) If they don't want Dykes back, the course of action is pretty clear.

What do you all think? Sound off in the comments.

UPDATE: Cal Athletics issued a statement. More to come later.