Sonny Dykes began his career in the spring of 1994 as an assistant baseball coach at Monahans High School in Monahans, Texas. Later in 1994, Dykes switched to coaching football as the running backs coach for J. J. Pearce High School in Richardson, Texas.
From 1995 to 1996, Dykes coached at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. In 1995, he coached the running backs as Navarro posted an 8–2 record. In 1996, he served as the quarterbacks and receivers coach and the passing game coordinator as Navarro finished 7–4 while reaching the Texas junior college championship game. At Navarro, Dykes coached Leroy Fields, who led the nation in receiving and was selected in the seventh-round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
In 1998, Dykes served as the wide receivers coach at Northeast Louisiana. Under Dykes’ guidance, wide receiver Marty Booker broke all of NLU’s single-season and career receiving records and was named first-team All-Independent. Booker played in the Blue-Gray and East-West Shrine all-star games and was selected by the Chicago Bears in the third-round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
In 1997, Sonny Dykes served as a graduate assistant and tight ends coach at Kentucky under head coach Hal Mumme. The season highlight was a win over #20 Alabama, a team Kentucky had not beaten since 1922. Led by sophomore quarterback Tim Couch, Kentucky’s offense set multiple school, SEC, and NCAA records.
Dykes returned to Kentucky in 1999 to serve on Mumme’s staff as wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator. The season highlights were a victory over #20 Arkansas and a trip to the Music City Bowl. At Kentucky, Dykes coached James Whalen who earned consensus All-America honors and set the all-time NCAA Division I record for receptions by a tight end. Whalen was selected in the fifth-round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Dykes also coached wide receiver Quentin McCord who was selected in the seventh-round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Two of Dykes’ players, Derek Smith and Brad Pyatt, signed as undrafted free agents with the Indianapolis Colts in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
In 2000, Sonny Dykes joined Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech as the wide receivers coach. In his five seasons as receivers coach, Texas Tech wide receivers set numerous individual school and conference receiving records. Dykes coached wide receiver Carlos Francis who finished his career at Texas Tech with the second-most career touchdowns and third-most career receiving yards, and Francis was selected in the fourth-round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. In addition to Francis, Dykes also coached receivers Wes Welker and Derek Dorris who signed free agent contracts with the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants, respectively. During his tenure as the Texas Tech receivers coach, the Red Raiders participated in a bowl game in each of his five years including the 2000 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl, 2001 Alamo Bowl, 2002 Tangerine Bowl, 2003 Houston Bowl, and 2004 Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech finished the 2004 season ranked 17th in the final Coaches Poll, which was the first time the Red Raiders were ranked in a final poll since joining the Big 12 Conference.
After five seasons as the Texas Tech wide receivers coach, Dykes was promoted to co-offensive coordinator alongside Dana Holgorsen in 2005. Texas Tech opened their 2005 season with a 6–0 record, the program’s best start since 1998, and defeated Oklahoma for the first time under Mike Leach. In 2005, the Red Raiders were trailing Kansas State, 13–10, late in the second quarter but won the game 59–20. Also in 2005, Texas Tech had a halftime lead of 14–10 over Texas A&M. By the end of the game, Texas Tech increased the margin to 56–17. It was the Aggies’ worst loss to the Red Raiders in the 64-year-old rivalry. Under Dykes’ direction in 2005, Cody Hodges led the nation in passing yardage per game. The 2005 season culminated in a trip to the Cotton Bowl Classic and a ranking of 19th in the final Coaches Poll.
In Dykes’ second season as co-offensive coordinator, Texas Tech ranked third in passing with 370 passing yards per game and sixth in total offense averaging nearly 450 total yards per game throughout the 2006 season. That season Dykes directed an offense that scored 32 points per game, and two receivers ranked top three in the nation in receptions per game and a third receiver ranked in the top twenty. Dykes helped develop Joel Filani into a two-time first team All-Big 12 honoree and a sixth-round selection in the 2007 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. In 2006, receiver Jarrett Hicks caught 13 touchdown passes to set the school’s single-season record and signed as a free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 2007. Dykes also worked with quarterback Graham Harrell who completed 412 passes for 4,555 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2006. In Dykes last game at Texas Tech, he helped orchestrate the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I-A bowl game history in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota. With Texas Tech trailing 38–7 in the third quarter, the Red Raiders overcame the 31-point deficit to defeat Minnesota 44–41 in overtime. Dykes was honored by receiving the All-American Football Foundation’s Mike Campbell Top Assistant Award in 2006. Additionally, Rivals.com listed Dykes as one of the nation’s brightest offensive minds and top ten recruiters.
Sonny Dykes joined Mike Stoops’ staff at Arizona as offensive coordinator in 2007. In his first season leading the Wildcats’ offense, Dykes increased Arizona’s offensive output by 130 yards per game, and they finished second in the Pac-10 in passing offense with a school-record 308 yards per game. Arizona’s pass efficiency rating increased 32 points from 2006 to 2007. In 2007, Arizona set single-season records for passing yards, passing yards per game, completions, touchdown passes and completion percentage, in addition to many single-game records by quarterback Willie Tuitama.
During the 2008 season, Dykes helped lead Arizona to eight victories and the programs first winning year since the 1998 season. Arizona earned their first bowl appearance since 1998 and defeated #16 BYU 31–21 in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. In that game, the Wildcats’ 31 points were the most in Arizona bowl history. Wide receiver Mike Thomas set the record for the most receptions by any receiver in Pac-10 history. Rob Gronkowski set the school tight end records for single-game, single-season, and career receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Gronkowski was named an Associated Press third-team All-American and All-Pac-10 first-team tight end.
During the 2009 season, Dykes helped lead Arizona to their second consecutive eight-win season and a second place Pac-10 finish, the program’s highest since 1998. In the final game of the regular season, Arizona defeated #20 USC 21–17, the Wildcats’ first victory over a Pete Carroll-coached USC team. Arizona finished the regular season ranked #22 in the AP Poll, the Wildcats’ first national ranking since the 2000 season. The Wildcats’ season culminated with an appearance in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. During the 2009 season, Dykes was nominated for the Broyles Award, an honor awarded to the nation’s best college football assistant coach.
On January 20, 2010, Sonny Dykes was hired to replace Derek Dooley as the head football coach of Louisiana Tech. In Dykes’ first season, LA Tech’s record improved to 5–7 overall and 4–4 in the WAC. Despite coaching his team to a losing record, Dykes was one of only four of the nation’s 22 new head coaches to improve a team’s conference record from the year before. LA Tech’s offense improved in several areas of the NCAA statistical ranks including passing offense (91st in 2009 to 62nd in 2010) and total offense (66th to 52nd) while the team’s average offensive national rank improved from 65th in 2009 to 54th in 2010.
Despite a 1–4 start in 2011, Dykes’ Dawgs rallied to win seven consecutive games to cap off the regular season with the program’s first WAC football title since 2001 and an appearance the Poinsettia Bowl. As a result of LA Tech’s success, Dykes was honored as the 2011 WAC Coach of the Year. At the conclusion of the 2011 season, Dykes signed a contract extension to increase his base salary to $750,000.
Dykes guided the Bulldogs to a 22-15 record over his 3 seasons as head coach.
On December 5, 2012, Dykes was announced as the head football coach at the University of California, Berkeley. Dykes’ Golden Bears struggled in his first season, achieving a 1-11 record.