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Will He Say Yes? SMU Makes Big Offer to Keep Sonny Dykes in Dallas

SMU is ponying up.

The Mustangs are making a significant financial commitment to Sonny Dykes in an attempt to keep him in Dallas, sources tell Sports Illustrated. The school has offered Dykes a new contract with an extensive raise that would make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Group of 5.

The university has been working on the new deal for several weeks and has presented it to the coach and his agent. A timeline on when, or if, he will agree to the contract is unclear. If he signs it, the deal would align his salary with the two highest-paid Group of 5 coaches, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen and Cincinnati's Luke Fickell. Holgorsen makes $4 million per year and Fickell earns about $3.4 million annually, according to a salary database from USA Today.

But given Dykes’s links to other open Power 5 jobs, the Mustangs have neighbors to fight off for their coach.

Will SMU's Sonny Dykes replace Gary Patterson at TCU?

Dykes (right) is rumored to be a top candidate to replace Gary Patterson (left) at TCU.

Dykes, a 51-year-old Texas native who is 29–15 at SMU, has been linked to open Power 5 jobs at Texas Tech and TCU, both with which he has connections. His father, Spike Dykes, led the Red Raiders for 14 years until his retirement in 1999. Sonny Dykes served as analyst for the Horned Frogs in 2017.

Dykes signed an extension with SMU after the 2019 season. As a private institution, the school does not release contract details. According to USA Today’s database, Dykes makes $1.3 million per year, but that figure is much lower than his actual salary. Obtaining contract information for coaches at private schools is often tricky.

Along with the financial commitment to the coach, SMU is expected to make strides in enhancing its facilities. The school is actively fundraising to build a new separate football operations center, as well as stadium expansion and renovation. A new, 67,000-square-foot indoor practice facility was completed in 2019. 

It’s all part of a grand plan to keep Dykes in Dallas. However, the lure of the Power 5 lingers over the situation. SMU was left out of Big 12 expansion while neighbor Houston got invited to the league, to the surprise of many. SMU is located in one of the U.S.’s largest metro areas.

In Dykes’s fourth year in Dallas, SMU is 7–1, ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and on the way to its third consecutive bowl invitation. He is known as one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the game, sprouting from the Air Raid coaching tree. He turned a successful three-year tenure at Louisiana Tech into a gig at Cal in 2013, where he went 19–30 and was fired after the '16 season.

Dykes then found a home in a familiar place. He has helped reestablish SMU as a conference championship contender, leading the Mustangs to an 8–0 start and a 10–3 record in 2019, their most wins since 1984. His three-year run at the school is also the best stretch since the program was dubbed the Pony Express in the mid-1980s, a time that produced three conference titles, five top-20 finishes and, of course, the infamous '87–88 NCAA death penalty sanctions, when the program was shut down for two years after an investigation found SMU was paying players and their families to lure them to the school.

The Mustangs have rebounded, qualifying for a bowl in seven of the past 12 years, the first of which came in 2009 under coach June Jones. That snapped a streak of 24 years without a postseason game, dating back before the death penalty sanctions.

Dykes has been in the mix for the opening at TCU. Horned Frogs athletic director Jeremiah Donati is conducting a wide search. 247Sports has reported TCU is also interested in interviewing Nevada head coach Jay Norvell, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders

Whether the interest from TCU is perfunctory or significant remains unclear. 

UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor’s recent extension likely removes his candidacy for the vacancies at Tech and TCU. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is not expected to be interested in the gig. Another name connected to the TCU search is Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. But Moore rebuffed interest from his alma mater Boise State last fall and is thought to be in play for soon-to-open NFL vacancies. Also to consider: He’ll likely have NFL responsibilities into January, as the Cowboys, on a six-game winning streak, appear playoff-bound.

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