Sunday, November 13, 2016

Another 8-4 Season for Sumlin's Aggies?

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In the wake of Ole Miss' 29-28 humiliation of his Aggie team Saturday Night, head coach Kevin Sumlin has a 43-19 overall record at Texas A&M. With an expected win over UTSA and an impending loss to LSU still to come this season, he would be 44-20 over five seasons, not including a year-end bowl game. But that record is deceiving. The numbers include three "cupcake" wins each season over the likes of Prairie View A&M, Ball State, Lamar and UTEP. Sumlin's record against SEC opponents is more revealing. He is 21-18 and likely to be 21-19 after suffering a fifth consecutive loss to LSU later this month. He was 6-2 against conference competition in his first year, thanks in significant part to Johnny Manziel's 2012 Heisman Trophy performances. Since then, his teams have finished 4-4, 3-5, 4-4 and 4-4, barring a miracle win over Ed Orgeron's rejuvenated Bayou Bengals.

It's not just the losses that are telling, but the teams Sumlin loses to. His win percentage against the SEC West is less than .500, no matter how this year's LSU game turns out. He has never beaten LSU (0-5) and has won over Alabama just once (1-4). He's been most successful against Arkansas (5-0), is 3-2 vs. Auburn, 3-2 against Ole Miss and 2-3 when facing Mississippi State. Sumlin's teams have finished tied for second, fourth, sixth and tied for fifth in the SEC West and will finish in the bottom half of the division again this season.

Les Miles was fired for doing much better at LSU. Since 2012, his teams are 21-13 in the SEC West. Sumlin's Aggies are 21-19 over the same period. Is Kevin Sumlin's run coming to an end at Texas A&M University? It would be reasonable to assume so. I don't think that even an unlikely 2016 win over LSU can save his job. The TAMU regents invested $450 million to renovate Kyle Field and spent another 20 million to upgrade the Bright Football Complex. Sumlin was given a five-year, $5 million annual contract extension in 2013, and his assistant coaches are being paid a total of another 4.4 million each year. A&M is not getting much bang for its big bucks with Sumlin's Aggies playing just slightly better than .500 ball in their division of the SEC. Granted, it's the toughest division in the toughest conference in all of college football. But TAMU knew what it was getting into when it made the decision to leave the Big 12 behind and go play with the big boys.

Even if the regents are not disposed to dump Kevin Sumlin (his buyout is a whpping $15 million), the Aggie fan base is not a patient one. After witnessing the same old symptoms of bad coaching (questionable play calling, missed tackles, dropped passes, drive-killing penalties, etc.) re-occur every November, year after year, the natives are more than just restless in Aggieland. They are tired of seeing Sumlin's teams not learning from their mistakes. The TAMU faithful don't expect to see consistent wins over Alabama, but they do want to just see some improvement. Three consecutive 4-4 seasons in the SEC are simply not good enough. I like Kevin Sumlin, I was full of hope when he was hired as the Aggie head coach, and I have defended him much more often than not. So it gives me no pleasure to say it, but Sumlin must go.

If the regents bite the bullet and cut their losses with Kevin Sumlin, what coach should they select as his replacement? Tom herman's name is already being mentioned, but does A&M really want to take its chances with another young coach from the University of Houston? I hope not. Herman may turn out to be equal to all the hype that surrounds him, but that has yet to be determined. And a bidding war with that school in Austin for his services could quickly escalate into a very expensive proposition. I hope the board looks elsewhere.

Another name being bandied about is that of Jimbo Fisher. The Florida State had coach has a 75-17 record at FSU and a national championship under his belt. Fisher has SEC coaching experience, with stints at Auburn and LSU as an assistant. If the regents pursue Fisher, they could end up in a bidding war against LSU. Not that there isn't enough bad blood between the two schools after Sumlin poached John Chavis away from Baton Rouge, with lawsuits over the details still pending in the courts.

Chris Petersen is a very interesting potential hire. The head coach of the Washington Huskies doesn't have any SEC experience, but he has compiled a 116-25 record at Boise State and in his current position. Scott Woodward, Texas A&M's Athletic Director since January, formerly held the same position at Washington. It was Woodward who hired Petersen away from Boise State in 2013, and as far as I know, the two had a good working relationship. Certainly if Woodward were to pick up the phone and call Petersen (or his agent) to make an offer, it would be seriously considered.

Those are the top three potential prospects to take over the football program at A&M, in my opinion. But here's a wild card just as a thoughyt exercise. I hear Les Miles is looking for a head coaching job. On the negative side of that equation are all the reasons why LSU fired him after only two games this season. Most prominent among them is his resistance to embrace and implement change. There are several factors to weigh on the plus side. He's an impressive 114-34 over nine seasons at LSU, and he also has a national championship to his credit. Miles has won the SEC once, won the SEC West three times and finished second or tied for second four times. Don't laugh. A&M could do a lot worse than Les Miles. It has, in fact, been doing just that for the past four years.

- JP

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