Keep Sumlin or Risk Killing Your Program

There seems to be a consortium of Aggies who are still “dug-in” on the idea that Texas A&M Athletic Director Scott Woodward should fire Kevin Sumlin post-haste.  That’s even after seeing some promising signs that Sumlin has his team trending up heading into the last 5 games of the season.  Sumlin’s detractors will argue that his past sins against UCLA, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU are unforgivable at this point.  They would argue that Kevin Sumlin isn’t producing wins at a rate that is commensurate with his $5 million per year salary.  Sumlin’s detractors argue that Texas A&M has invested far too much money in top-notch facilities to have a coach that’s only able to bring home 8 wins every year.  They’ll say those 8 wins are hollow stats because several of them are non-conference cream puffs.

So let’s take a look at some of these points and see if any of them hold water:

Unforgivable Sins:

Yes, the loss to UCLA was bad, but it was a once in a lifetime collapse.  It’s time to get over it. Or at least let it go or it will haunt you forever and make it where you can’t enjoy football.  Last year, Sumlin’s squad lost to both Mississippi State and Ole Miss.  Those were bad losses only in that there was a perception that A&M should have beaten them.  A&M lost those two games by a combined 8 points, and yes they should have won, but injuries happen and this is the SEC.  Every team in the SEC has big ol’ boys in the trenches, and if you don’t bring your “A” game, you can get beat by what you perceive as an inferior opponent.  Is this Sumlin’s fault?  Maybe.  He probably could have done a better job of getting his team ready mentally, but players have to step up and make plays in close ballgames where 2 or 3 plays mean the difference between a win and loss.  As for the loss against LSU, the Tigers simply have Sumlin’s number.  There’s just no way around it.  Just like how Sumlin has Bret Bielema’s number.  LSU is not our rival, and they probably never will be, no matter how many Aggies or SEC brass want it to happen.  Arkansas is much more of a rival, and we’ve owned them in the Sumlin Era, so firing your coach over losses to LSU is not justified in the same way that firing your coach over losing to Alabama isn’t justified.  This isn’t the Big 12 anymore where hate fuels all of our decisions.

Overpaid:

Kevin Sumlin is the 7th highest paid coach in the country.  So what.  Doesn’t A&M have more revenue than any other program in the country?  It’s not like we’re on hard times and having to sell stuff on Craigslist to pay his salary.  $5 million a year is getting Texas A&M more national exposure than they’ve ever had, 8+ wins in the best conference in football, top 15 recruiting classes every year, and a program that’s free of scandals and NCAA violations. Not to mention, a coach that players love and would run through a brick wall for, a guy that loves A&M and understands the traditions, a coach that puts tons of talent into the NFL… should I keep going?  If Sumlin is fired, he’s most likely going to be replaced by a guy that will likely need a few years to install his system with his players.  So we can expect 3-4 years of fumbling around with .500 records (or worse) just hoping to make bowl games, and trying to avoid NCAA penalties until we can finally start to reach 8+ wins again.  Maybe you can do that with a coach that you paid less than $5 million, but that’s not what Aggies want.  They want the big splash hire.  A Saban, Meyer, Harbaugh, Swinney hire.  And those kind of guys won’t work for less than $5 million.

Facilities:

Texas A&M spent $500 million to revamp and expand Kyle Field.  It’s nice, but a stadium doesn’t win games for you.  Case in point: Tennessee has one of the biggest and most impressive stadiums in the country, but is that translating into wins for them?  A&M now has top-flight weight training facilities and a fancy new locker room which helps with recruiting and maybe getting guys stronger, but I’ve never seen a team dominate on the field because they had TV’s in every locker.  Look at Oregon.  They have some of the best facilities thanks to big donations by Nike’s founder Phil Knight.  That may have given them a bump in recruiting for a few years in the past, but even Oregon has started to crumble since 2014.

Hollow win total:

Some say 8 wins is misleading.  They’ll say that you can’t count non-conference wins, and that only the record against SEC opponents should be a measure of success.  I’ve even read another article that chose to omit wins against SEC East foes!  The problem with this reasoning is that everybody counts non-conference wins and losses.  No matter who it was.  Bama got a ton of credit for playing (and beating) USC in 2016.  They also got credit for beating Kent State.  They didn’t omit those wins from their final tally.  In the same vein, LSU has to count the fact that they lost to Troy this year.  You take the good with the bad because every team is measured by wins and losses in the end.  Omitting a win (or a loss) is considered cherry-picking stats to try to get them to tell you what you want to hear.  Kevin Sumlin has no control over who is lined up on his schedule.  That’s decided by the Athletic Departments and shouldn’t be a knock against him.  In the SEC, every victory against a conference foe should be considered well-earned and every loss should be considered hard fought.  There are no lowly teams like Kansas and Baylor in the SEC that you can chalk up as automatic wins.

In summary, I would argue that for every Kirby Smart hire that goes well for a program, there are a dozen Dennis Franchione, Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora, and Layne Kiffin hires that have gone so poorly that it practically bombs the program back to the Stone Age.  What would North Carolina do for consistently hitting the 8-win mark right now?  Do you think USC would like a little more consistency at the coaching position over the last 6+ years?  How about Texas?  They fired one of their winningest coaches in Mack Brown for a coach that was lucky if he got his players to tie their shoes correctly.  Now they have hired his replacement (Tom Herman) who’s staring another losing season right in the face.  Be careful what you wish for, Sumlin-haters.  You might just get your way, and you might just kill your program on this witch-hunt of yours in the process.