Two weeks shy of National Signing Day, California is without an offensive coordinator.
Tony Franklin, who has spent the last six years as coach Sonny Dykes’ playcaller at both Louisiana Tech and Cal, has resigned to take the same post at Middle Tennessee.
The school made the announcement Friday and Franklin, in a statement provided by the school, said he and his wife, Laura, made the decision to leave Berkeley in order to be closer to family -- their parents, children and grandchildren -- in the South.
Franklin’s decision, according to sources, was not the result of any rift between him and Dykes.
“I appreciate all of the contributions that Tony has made over the last three seasons to make our football program successful and all that he has accomplished throughout his career including the last six years we have spent working together at Cal and Louisiana Tech,” Dykes said in a statement. “I will miss him both as a colleague and a friend, but at this point in his career he has decided that this is the best move for him and his family. I respect and honor that wholeheartedly, and I wish both Tony and his family nothing but the best.”
Cal set several single-season school records in 2015, including total yards per game (529.2), scoring (37.9 points per game) and total offense (6,879 yards) as quarterback Jared Goff developed into one of the best players in the country. Goff, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft, set the Pac-12 single-season record for passing yards and touchdown passes.
Franklin’s departure is surprising from a timing standpoint and because Middle Tennessee is an obvious step down in terms of prestige, but his original three-year contract was set to expire April 30 and he wasn’t expected to get a significant raise after Cal announced it allotted an additional $500,000 to the assistant salary pool in early December. Franklin made $560,000 in salary and bonuses in 2015.
He spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, in 2009, before Dykes was named head coach at Louisiana Tech and hired him in the same role. It did, however, take some convincing.
Franklin told ESPN.com in 2014, that when Dykes approached him about the gig at Louisiana Tech, he wasn’t ready to move on. MTSU was set to return 10 starters, including its starting quarterback.
“I told him I could be bought,” Franklin said. “And when he was able to offer significantly more money that I was making at Middle, I told him I’d come.”
Franklin and Dykes' relationship dates back to 1997, when they coached together at Kentucky, but Franklin is notoriously difficult to work with. He also expressed some concerns about working under an offensive-minded head coach.
“I started off the first day and gave him a piece of paper and said ‘This is who I am,’” Franklin said. “I’m not easy to get along with. I’m hard to work with. I’m stubborn. It has to be my way or else it won’t work and if it won’t work the best thing to do is just fire me and let’s move on and maybe we can still be friends and maybe we won’t be.”
“I said there’s a good chance at the end of this we won’t be friends because it’s hard to have that relationship. So we were probably better friends when we weren’t coaching together than we are now.”
From a recruiting standpoint, it’s hard to gauge the impact of Franklin’s departure. Other than with quarterbacks, he was not heavily involved in the Bears’ recruiting efforts and Dykes' history as an offensive coordinator should ease any concerns recruits may have about the direction of the offense.
“I am also extremely confident and excited that we will hire an offensive coordinator that will help us continue to grow upon our recent success and the foundation that Tony and all of our coaches have built at Cal,” Dykes said. “We have a terrific foundation in place now, and we will embrace the opportunity to hire an outstanding offensive coordinator that will help us continue to have success as a team and be one of the top offenses in college football.”