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TCU Head Coach Sonny Dykes Q&A With Pete Mundo

NCAA Football: Colorado at Texas Christian

In a recent interview with Heartland College Sports’ Pete Mundo, TCU head coach Sonny Dykes discussed transfer portal chaos, TCU’s life in the new Big 12, conference expansion, and many more interesting topics.

Dykes has experienced an up-and-down start to his tenure in Ft. Worth, with an appearance in the 2023 National Championship Game followed by a disappointing 5-7 season. Here’s what Dykes had to say ahead of the Horned Frogs’ 2024 season.



Dykes: “Yeah, it’s certainly changed quite a bit. You know, for years, the last two weeks of April, and really all of May, head coaches were on the road recruiting. Now, that’s really not the case anymore; we’re not allowed to go out on the road recruiting anymore. Now assistant coaches go, and we kind of stay in and man the ship in some ways, and it’s good in some ways and not great in others; I think we’d all like to be out there seeing recruits and high school coaches and build on those relationships, but we can’t. So that makes it a little frustrating. But you know, there is so much that needs to be done now. It does give you an opportunity to to sit down with your support staff and do a lot of planning. And, you know, for us, we’ve got a really busy camp calendar coming up, and in June, we host a really big camp, the very first weekend of June every year. We’ll have about, I don’t know, 4000, maybe 4500 kids that that camp over those two days, and so we’ll be busy. So a lot of prep goes into that and gives us a chance to do those things, and as you said, you know, it used to be camps only in June, now you’re doing official visits in April, May, and June. Every single weekend now is busy. You know, there’s something going on all the time, whether it’s portal recruiting, high school recruiting, or meeting with your players trying to maintain your roster. It’s always changing, always evolving and you have to try to find out how to make it work for you and figure out what the best way to approach it is.”


Dykes: “Yeah, I mean, you do, I think you do. I think the biggest thing that you do, really, honestly, is that you have a chance to recruit them every day. I think that the way you do that is by providing them with opportunities to get better. I think the players want to get better, they want to be pushed, and they want to feel like they’re being taken care of. There are really a lot of different ways to do that, and I think that you have to be really good at everything you do. In other words, your strength conditioning coach has to be really good. The players have to feel like they’re getting maximum attention and have the greatest ability to improve as an athlete. You’re also doing things to keep them safe and keep them fresh, and that’s providing them with all the nutrition that they need to improve and to get better. You have to have the best training staff, the best medical staff, and academic support that’s the very best. When it comes to equipment, I mean, just all the things are important. And those guys are evaluating them every day. I think the next part that is probably more important is that they’re evaluating whether coaches are making athletes better. Do I feel like I have a chance to reach my potential in this scheme, or from this position coach, or from this coordinator, or from this head coach? And so if you check all those boxes, I think you have a chance to hold on to the guys on your roster that you really want to hold on to. And then, I think people kind of discount that first part, and they think it’s really all about money. And it’s really no different than any of us who are out making a living right now. For some of us, the only thing that we care about is how much money we are going to make, and other people care about other things. The work environment and all these other things. I think what you have to do is you have to understand that these young people are just like all of us. They want to get better, and they want to be someplace where they feel like they can reach their potential. But they also you know, that they also have financial obligations and their family has financial obligations. And so all of that together, I think, is important for how you retain players, and sometimes, players get to the point where they reach that deal where they say, ‘Okay, look, I gotta go somewhere else to get the kind of money that I think I’m worth,’ and if that’s the case, you wish them the best, and they move down the road, and you don’t have any kind of ill will or hard feelings. It’s just part of part of doing business. And I think that that’s kind of where we’re at now in college football. I know a lot of people like to complain about the way it is, I actually like it. I like the fact that, number one, the players are compensated, and number two, I like the fact that guys have options if they don’t want to be someplace and they feel like they can’t be the best version of themselves. They can move on. We’ve all had that opportunity as coaches, and now I think the players need to have it as well.”



Dykes: “I think we learned a lot of lessons. We’ve had three completely different springs. It’s different than anything we’ve had in the past and anything that I’ve had in the past. I mean, you come in, and you have a new roster, the first year. You’re trying to learn the guys in the second year, and you’re trying to deal with playing all the way until the middle of January, and how’s that going to affect your spring. Because our players never had any time off, those guys never went home from the end of July until January 16th. They never had an opportunity to go home, see their family, have a break, or do anything. So we had to give those guys three weeks off and try to get him back in shape to get ready for spring football. I think last spring, we felt like we were playing catch-up the whole time. And we felt like that going into the season. We never could get caught up. We lost a lot of seniors on that team. I believe seven juniors declared early for the NFL Draft. We got gutted, really, our entire older group and our program. That was difficult. I think we’re in a much better place. I like I like our team now and I like the leadership on our team. I like the depth of our team. I think we have an edge that we had in 2022 that we probably didn’t have in ’23. I’m excited about this group. I really am. And I’m optimistic. We’re in a lot better place right now than we were a year ago. I mean, a night and day better place. That leads me to believe that we’ll have a different kind of season than we did.”


Dykes: “I think we felt it coming out of spring ball, you know, we had so many new faces. We knew that there were going to be some challenges. We added a lot of players over the summer in the transfer portal and it just felt like we just never really gelled as a team. And so we learned some lessons. We’ve got to do a better job, and I’ve got to do a better job as a coach. Our staff has to do a better job of building that rapport with the players. And those guys have to be really bought into the team concept. I think sometimes you see nine guys get drafted, like we had in 2022, and a lot of the guys look at that, and they think, ‘Okay, well, I’m next in line.’ We only had three drafted, so I think that there were a lot of people who had to do a lot of learning. I think we all did it together. You know, the players really take their cues from us as coaches, and I just don’t think that we did a great job or I did a great job of building that chemistry that you have to have. It’s so important, and we had it in ’22, and for whatever reason, what didn’t in ’23. I think that contributed to a lot of the issues we had. Now we lost a lot of experience. We had a quarterback hurt and played with a young quarterback, and typically, you don’t have a lot of success. In 2022, We had a guy who had played a lot of games in Max Duggan. And last year, we ended the season with Josh Hoover, who, every game he started, were some of his very first games. And so there are a lot of factors that go into that, but I feel good about this group and where we are. And that’s the great thing about college football. There are no excuses. You get ready to play every year, and nobody cares. I think our players understand that, and I think we’re in a good spot.”



Dykes: “Yeah, honestly, I think travel is important, but I think it just depends on who you catch. I was in the American for a number of years at SMU, and you could almost predict who was going to win the American based on who didn’t play the best teams. There were some years when some teams might not play the top three teams in the league, so you might catch the right schedule. I don’t know that any of us can say that right now because the league is so new. In the Big 12 there’s been so much parity in the league, you know, six different teams have played for the conference championship the last three years. There’s been a ton of parity, and I think there’s going to continue to be. I just think that’s the way the league is built. But travel is an issue and can really be an issue, certainly, when you’re talking about flying from Arizona to Florida or all the places that we’re gonna have to travel across the country. But I think, really, just catching the right teams in any year can contribute to who’s playing in that championship game as much as anything else.”


Dykes: “Well, I think I think we’re very fortunate that we had the leadership that we had, with Brett, Yormark coming in as the Big 12 Commissioner, stabilizing the league and jumping in front of the PAC 12, to renegotiate our TV rights. I think that was probably the most important thing that has happened to this league, really, since the beginning of the Big 12. You know, had he not done that, I mean, there’s no telling how this thing would have ended up for the Big 12 and a lot of institutions in the Big 12. So, you know, the great thing is, I think we’re we have a great conference commissioner. I really like Brett, and I think the league is really strong. I think we’re all committed to football. I think some teams are going to have an opportunity to become, you know, the new Oklahoma. I think Oklahoma won 16 out of 20 Big 12 Championships at one point, or something like that, a bunch of them. And now, someone else is gonna have the opportunity to do that. And it’s gonna look different than it did, but who knows how this thing’s gonna play out. It’s going to be great. Great games week in and week out, and I think there’s going to be a ton of parity. It’s going to be as exciting a league as there is anywhere.”


Dykes: “Well, the biggest thing is to have success. I mean, I think that’s that’s the whole thing. You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but you have to go out there, and at some point, you got to play the games, and the games have to matter at some point. I think that’s what’s good, is that they’re going to, and I think that when the games matter, and people look at the body of work in the Big 12, I think they’re going to have a ton of respect for what they see. I think that’s what we’re all going to have to do is put a good product on the field, play well, and when we play out of conference games, we’re going to have to go play good people, and we’re going to have to win those games as a league to build our credibility. Then we’re going to have to fill our stadiums and our fans are going to have to be engaged with the programs. I think that’s all that matters in today’s world. You know, I think you go and you look at TCU’s history long before I got here with Coach Patterson. I mean, they had a tremendous amount of success, and they won a bunch of big games. I just saw a stat the other day; I think since 2014, there are nine teams that have a winning record against ranked teams, and TCU is one of them. So, you know, we have to win those games. When you’re playing ranked opponents, you have to figure out how to win. There’s opportunity out there, and it comes down to who’s going to be the best. I think, at some point, the logos need to quit mattering so much. Right now, it seems to be all everybody wants to talk about is the logo and what league they are in because, look, it’s like I talked about the other day. You know, somebody asked me, and I talked about the difference between Alabama and Louisiana Tech, and it certainly wasn’t a shot at Louisiana Tech; I loved my time at Law Tech. I was very fortunate to be the head coach there. We had a lot of success, and we won a lot of games. We beat a lot of Power Five programs when I was there. It’s going to be hard for those teams to continue to do that with NIL and the way that things are now in the transfer portal. It goes back to what I talked about earlier. When you have limited resources, it’s going to be difficult for your players to stay, and so what happens now is that a lot of smaller schools become almost like junior colleges, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I wish it wasn’t that way. But it just seems like that’s the way it’s headed.”

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