Things on Sunday night went very well for Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M at first. And then they went very badly. It is a pattern familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to Texas A&M since it hired Sumlin in 2012 to lead Texas A&M’s transition to the SEC.
First day out, the Aggies beat Florida, then Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman, then the Aggies blow out Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-2 and ranked fifth in the final Associated Press poll. It seemed at the time to be just the beginning of a beautiful partnership between a cool and cocky young-ish coach, and a program that hadn’t been either of those things in quite some time. For as long as I’ve been conscious of it, Texas A&M has seemed like a sleeping giant of a program, with seemingly all the resources to be a year-in, year-out national power, if only circumstances could align for long enough to get something going.
Well, now at least one member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents is ready to fire Sumlin for, oh, more or less all the reasons.
If there is theme that ties together the complaints about Sumlin, it is squandered opportunity. By all accounts he has signed excellent classes, better than usual. Part of the transition to the SEC included a massive renovation to Kyle Field and the rest of the football facilities, which are now gorgeous. And to top it off Texas A&M extended Sumlin’s contract in 2013.
This all leaves him little room to hide when things go wrong. And every year since that extension, things have cratered after a hot start. Usually it takes a few weeks. Sunday night, it took a little less than three quarters.
The 2013 team was 8-2 (with losses to No. 1 Alabama and No. 24 Auburn) until it lost the last two games of the regular season on the road to No. 18 LSU and No. 5 Missouri, and wound up in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl. In 2014, A&M started 5-0, then lost five of its last eight games. In 2015, the exact same thing happened. Last year, they started 6-0, then lost five of their last seven.
This all with recruiting classes ranked 11th, sixth, 10th and 17th by Rivals.com.
If you’re looking to cut the guy a break, there is available to you the fact that he has been up against the best division of the best league in the country. But then again that’s what you’re paying him $30 million to do.
Coaches usually get more credit and more blame than they deserve, and if you’re looking at this from 30,000 feet, that’s probably the case with Sumlin too. But if you’re looking at it from the ground in College Station, it’s hard to see how Sumlin survives this, unless the comeback is as incredible as the collapse.