When the Cougars’ perfect season ended with a loss to Southern Miss in the December 3 Conference USA championship game, people began whispering that University of Houston football coach Kevin Sumlin might leave for Texas A&M. Looks like the rumors were true. Sumlin officially announced the move at a press conference in College Station on Monday.
Now time for the honeymoon period, during which Sumlin and the famously laid-back Aggies fan base can get to know each other and look forward to the exciting challenge of the school’s first-ever season in the tough Southeastern Conference.
“Is this a good hire?” asked Adrian O’Hanlon III of Texas A&M student newspaper the Battalion, in a column that included the subhead “Predictable process disappoints.”
I hate answering a question with more questions but what does your gut tell you? Did you get up and do the dougie when you heard the news? Did you find the closest A&M fan and give him or her a high five that reverberated through time and space?
If the answer to any of these is “no,” then Sumlin has some work to do.
As Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reported, Sumlin earned approval from Texas A&M legend John David Crow, who was present for the press conference. “He’s a very, very good hire,” Crow said. But the Heisman Trophy winner still added, “We’ll have to find out if he’s the right guy or not going into the SEC.”
The statistical analysis blog Coaches by the Numbers reckons that being A&M’s head coach is the 23rd best college football job in the nation (out of 120) and that the Aggies could have found a better guy. The reservations are related to the weaker schedule Sumlin faced at Houston, the extent to which his former team benefited from offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and star quarterback Case Keenum, and the defensive prowess of the SEC compared to Conference USA.
ESPN’s Ivan Maisel saved his brickbats for A&M itself, quoting an anonymous college football coach who said “that going to Texas A&M might be ‘career suicide’” given that it’s ended badly for the school’s last three coaches, R.C. Slocum, Dennis Franchione, and Mike Sherman.
But as a former Slocum assistant, Sumlin is also a connection to the last great period for Aggies football, back when they were in another conference that began with an “S.” That’s one reason why lead blogger “Beergut,” of the SB Nation site I Am the 12th Man, is a member of the fan club:
I am thrilled with this hire, because I think Sumlin is the right man at the right time for Texas A&M. Ever since we fired RC Slocum following the 2002 season, I was hoping there was a way we could bring Sumlin back to Texas A&M… I think we have found the right person for this season and the next several years going forward. I wanted a young coach with something to prove to take over at A&M, and I think we’ve found our man in Kevin Sumlin.