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Why Cal fired Sonny Dykes: Baylor interview, lagging ticket sales big factors

A few hints.

NCAA Football: California at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Even though you’ll probably see most of Bear Territory quite content that Cal decided to move on from head coach Sonny Dykes, there is definitely a lot of quizzical reactions about the timing. It’s the middle of January, all other college football programs moved quickly to fill in their vacancies.

Making this decision so late in the process has led to a lot of questions. Athletic director Mike Williams did drop a few hints in his letter to the Cal community. Paragraph in bold worth paying attention to.

It is imperative that we also act in the best interests of Cal Athletics’ long-term financial sustainability. In order to do this, strong revenue streams and investment in our football program are critical. We believe that a coaching change will reinvigorate Cal football, stimulate lagging ticket sales and renewals and energize our alumni, fan, and donor and fan base. We understand that several influences may contribute to this decline in support. Still, we need to re-examine everything within our control. In our assessment, we believe a change in football leadership is appropriate.

Cal football is a point of pride for thousands of alumni, donors, season-ticket holders and fans. It is an honor to represent the No. 1 public university in the world and the brilliant students, alumni, faculty, coaches and staff who compose Cal’s campus community. As a result, we look for a head coach who is committed to advancing our University’s mission and legacy and who wants to be at Cal.

In searching for a new head coach, we will partner with CarrSports Consulting to assist us in the search. Signing Day (February 1) is fast approaching and naturally, we are moving with all due speed. Out of respect for all parties, we will not publicly discuss any candidates until we complete our search and announce Cal’s new head football coach.

You many wonder whether the Chancellor’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics is involved. I’d like you to know that we don’t expect the task force to have any impact on our search. At this point, the task force has not made a single decision and not a single recommendation has been formed or offered.

Basically, the key phrase of “lagging ticket sales and renewals” stands out. Cal attendance dropped a few percentage points last season (the Bears sold about 75% of their tickets last season), but with an uninspiring 2017 home slate upcoming outside of Ole Miss and USC, the schedule isn’t favorable.

Immediate ticket renewals probably came back super unfavorable for next year. It’s irritating that the athletic department couldn’t anticipate these factors until late in the process, but Cal is known for being reactive rather than proactive. That was probably the final trigger that Williams couldn’t afford another season with Dykes.

David Lombardi of ESPN also reports that the Baylor interview was a big part of why the program decided to make a move.

Cal AD Mike Williams confirms that Sonny Dykes was technically fired without cause, but he did acknowledge that Dykes' interview with Baylor played a role. "It's part of the overall evaluation," Williams said. "We want to make sure that we have a coach who wants to be here. We want a football coach who understands that and wants to be part of that."

Dykes has also been circulated with other jobs, like Missouri last season and rumors of Houston and North Carolina as well. All that circulation was annoying last season, and must have really miffed Cal after the Golden Bears handed Dykes a multi-year contract extension.

Again though, the Baylor news has been out there since mid-December, when the Bears went on and hired Matt Rhule. Dykes could’ve been fired a month ago and Cal could already have a new coach likely set in place by now. The delay between the news and the eventual verdict on Sonny’s future is still pretty vast, and leaves the Bears behind the eight ball.

Williams better have a concrete plan as to who he wants and execute quickly on hiring him. Hiring a head coach is one thing, finding a staff that will follow him will take time that the Bears do not have with National Signing Day looming.