Sonny Dykes, the defense-resistant head coach at California, is being hailed as not only the top candidate but the best fit for the vacated job at Baylor, which has been rendered an ethical cesspool by its repellent organizational dealings regarding a series of sexual assaults associated with the football program.
And good on him, if he wants to go, this being America and all. Cal probably won’t put up an enormous fight to retain him, and if he wants to return to his Texas roots, run a higher profile program in a more dynamic football conference, well, you can’t hate a man for climbing.
But this isn’t just a football job any more, and Dykes has to understand that treating it that way would represent failure.
Now Dykes could try to do as Jim Grobe, the interim coach who decided he didn’t want to keep the job, did, and try to keep a laser-like focus on the football. It is the safe thing to do, especially in a state in which football is more important than oil, spring football and even the daily insanity of its politics.
But Baylor has been a mess for too long as a result of its persistent mishandling and non-handling of the sexual assault scandal. It has become the touchstone by which the university is regarded, by outsiders, students and even present and potential football players. Baylor football may well be toxic for the next few years on a number of levels, and the only way for Dykes, or anyone else for that matter, to take the job and make it worth holding is to make transparency and zero tolerance the most important pillars of any new administration.
Business as usual just won’t cut it. Baylor has been crushed for business as usual.
So if Sonny Dykes is ready to meet that challenge in addition to the Oklahomas and Texas Techs and Kansas States that actually determine his employment, then by all means he has to rebuild trust in a school he has never worked at before. He has to clean up what he can of a colossal institutional mess. He has to make Baylor cleaner than clean, in face, in word and in deed.
Lack of naivete prevents us from ignoring the real reason he would be hired. He is being hired to win football games, and will be judged ultimately on that singular skill.
But to get into recruits’ homes, he has to show a devotion to be different than Baylor’s reputation. He has to repudiate some of the Art Briles era without doing it so stridently that he chases players away. He has to repudiate the culture of an administration that has been devoted then and now to keeping prying eyes away from their willingness to protect the brand at the cost of student safety. He has to be Forrest Gregg after the SMU death penalty of the 1980s, only he has to win quicker than Gregg because Gregg was hired to clean up SMU’s recruiting scandal while Baylor will have hired Dykes only to coach and mind his business.
And frankly, this seems like the type of task that will not serve Dykes well.
He will be pestered about a past that isn’t his, and “I’m sorry, I’m only here to talk about the future” answers won’t do. He will be nagged about the disarray of the program after the recruiting pipelines Briles created collapsed, and “We’re very happy with our class” declarations will ring hollow. He will be scrutinized for his decisions, and any player of his who falls afoul of either the law or human decency will label as part of the problem rather than the solution. His reputation is at risk here, and mistakes will be graded harshly.
Oh, and given the circumstances, his record will not immediately glow.
So maybe Baylor isn’t the job for him after all. Only he can know that, and only he can decide what job is the one for him. It’s pretty clear he is looking around for something a little less Cal, and while Baylor may not be the gem it once was, he may decide that home is too strong a lure, and fall in love with the idea of being the guy who steers the program out of its current shame and back atop the always disputatious Big 12 Conference.
Just so he knows what he’s in for if the rumors turn out to be true.