The issue here is cronyism in the 2008 hiring of football coach Mike Sherman, whose brief tenure has so far been, shall we say, less than a spectacular success, culminating in K-State’s pasting of the Aggies last Saturday, a game in which oddsmakers had made A&M the favorite.
Brent Zwerneman, who covers the Aggies for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, blogged in June about how Sherman got the job:
Who do you think is most responsible for second-year A&M football coach Mike Sherman being on campus? Let’s put it this way: Steve McKinney [son of A&M chancellor Mike McKinney, a longtime Perry friend and political ally – pb] played for Sherman when Sherman was the offensive line coach at A&M, and again when Sherman served as the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator just prior to landing the Aggies gig.
Sherman recruited Seth McKinney [Steve’s younger brother, and, like Steve, an NFL lineman – pb] out of Austin’s Westlake High before Sherman left for the NFL in the spring of 1997. The ties between Sherman and the McKinneys run deep and wide. Why do you think Sherman was athletic director Bill Byrne’s only candidate for the job?
A few days later, a Zwerneman blog was the source of an anecdote about Perry that has received wide circulation:
These are strange days, indeed, for the leadership of Texas A&M, and like all things Aggie, at least some of it relates to football.
For instance, last August a few of us reporters were standing in the south end zone of Kyle Field, waiting to interview first-year coach Mike Sherman after practice.
Gov. Rick Perry had attended that day’s practice, and also greeted Sherman near the end zone. A reporter, smiling widely, asked Sherman if he had voted for Perry in the last election.
Perry turned to Sherman and said, “Of course you voted for me. Who do you think got you hired? I control this place.” [bold face added]
The problem for Perry is that he and McKinney are not just messing with academics. No one is going to get too excited over who is president of the university, or who is vice-president of student affairs, or who is vice-president of research for the A&M system. (McKinney forced the president out and filled the other two positions with Perry cronies.) But when Perry and McKinney dictate the hiring of the football coach, and the Aggies get slaughtered by an inferior team, and the program is headed in the wrong direction, Aggies are going to be up in arms by the tens of thousands, and if they think that Sherman was hired on the basis of friendship instead of merit, there is going to hell to pay for it. The bill could come due in the voting booth. This is Texas and football matters more than politics.
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