COLLEGE STATION, Texas — For the second week in a row, a double-digit underdog beat Texas A&M, which in both cases was ranked top-10 by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
The knee-jerk reaction from a vocal contingent of Aggies fans in the midst of this slide: Fire Kevin Sumlin. In fact, 75 percent of fans who voted in a dallasnews.com poll think he needs to go. That’s in addition to the usual gang of all-caps Twitter warriors who use that platform as a college football venting device.
But there are good reasons why sending Sumlin packing would be misguided and unreasonable.
Let’s talk money first. As reported months ago, the school would owe its fifth-year head coach $15 million — payable within 60 days of his termination — if he’s fired after the season. The buyout clause in his contract states if Sumlin is let go without cause, he’ll be owed 100 percent of what’s left on his deal.
What’s more, when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, 2017, the school’s portion of the buyout clause will reportedly no longer be in effect. That means he can take another job, either in college or the NFL, without having to pay a cent back to Texas A&M.
Because of how this contract is structured, all of the bargaining power is with Sumlin. If he wants to stay, it’s highly unlikely Texas A&M will want to shell out millions just to rid itself of a coach who is 43-19 in five years. If he wants to leave, he can get away penalty free.
By the way, here’s how Sumlin’s winning percentage compares to other SEC West coaches at their current schools:
- Saban: .859
- Sumlin: .694
- Malzahn: .680
- Freeze: .629
- Mullen: .590
- Bielema: .500
By the way, only two Aggies head coaches in program history — Dana Bible and Charles Moran — have a better winning percentage than Sumlin (minimum 40 games coached). Both coached before World War II.
Now, why else should the Aggies want Sumlin to stay in College Station? The biggest argument for that is timing.
If Sumlin has proven one thing since taking over the Texas A&M program, it’s he can recruit the Lone Star State. Elsewhere, Texas and Baylor are in shambles. Houston is about to lose Tom Herman. And the Aggies’ 2017 recruiting class, headlined by 4-star dual-threat Kellen Mond (an ex-Baylor commit), ranks 11th in the country.
Since Johnny Manziel left, Sumlin’s big blemish has been his inability to keep good quarterbacks around. The exodus of Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray — plus the de-commitment of Tate Martell — is what has the position in its current state: Trevor Knight and now Jake Hubenak starting in 2016.
However, Hubenak hasn’t been bad, and he’ll presumably return as a senior starter in 2017. Offensive studs Trayveon Williams and Christian Kirk will be back
You can talk about how the defense hasn’t progressed as expected in Year 2 of John Chavis, some of which can be explained by injury. Myles Garrett isn’t 100 percent. Armani Watts got knocked out. But it’s almost impossible to fault Sumlin for making that hire — Chavis is as dependable a defensive coordinator as they come. That unit should continue getting better.
The Aggies don’t need to blow this thing up just yet. Sumlin, a veteran coach in college football’s toughest division, deserves one more year to get them into the “big game.”