- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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Texas A&M lost a game to Missouri on Saturday, but that setback pales in comparison to the bigger picture for the Aggies.
The other story to come out of Columbia, Mo., on Saturday -- one that bodes well for the long-term health of the football program -- was the new six-year contract for head coach Kevin Sumlin.
It sends a message that Texas A&M is willing to play with the big boys.
"The Texas A&M University has made as an unbelievable commitment toward the football program, the best I've ever seen, in such a short period of time," athletic director Eric Hyman said on Saturday night. "And that's a credit to Texas A&M. There's no question about it. They showed to Kevin and really to the world that Texas A&M wants to have a viable program and competitive on a national level."
In the last two seasons, the Aggies have upped the ante in several areas in order to be competitive with their new mates in the SEC. They approved plans and have since begun construction on a $450 million renovation project for Kyle Field that will turn it into a 102,500-seat monstrosity, scheduled for completion prior to the 2015 season.
Just before Sumlin's first season began, work was completed on the Davis Player Development Center, a $9 million football-only weight room that is 20,000-square feet and has state-of-the-art technology in place.
This year, a new dining hall, the R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center, was installed on the second floor of the Bright Football Complex, a project that cost an estimated $12 million. And in the front of the Bright Complex is the Tommie E. Lohman '59 Center, where a $4 million renovation of the lobby took place. It's where John David Crow and Johnny Manziel's Heisman trophies are displayed, as are numerous other awards and mementos of Texas A&M football history.
Sumlin was one of the hottest names in the offseason coaching rumor mill. With the USC vacancy, not to mention the threat of NFL teams pursuing the sixth-year head coach, Texas A&M beat other suitors to the punch.
Sources told ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen that Sumlin's new deal, which runs through 2019, raised his salary to $5 million per year and guarantees him to coach the Aggies until the school has completed and played in the new Kyle Field.
Texas A&M wants to be competitive long-term in the SEC, often called the country's best college football conference, so it has put its money where its mouth is.
"This is a very sincere, long-time commitment to an individual who has done a marvelous job, in all aspects of the job," Hyman said. "From our student-athletes, from a competitive standpoint, from the community to the Aggie family, everybody is extremely excited to have him leading the programs."
Hyman made it clear he understands there isn't just one aspect of the program that takes priority. Many parts have to work together for it to happen. The Aggies are 19-6 in their first two SEC seasons under Sumlin. Alhough this season's 8-4 record wasn't what some had hoped, the future appears bright. The program is on track to sign a second consecutive top-10 recruiting class and is off to a strong start in its 2015 class.
"You have to understand, you build that cathedral one brick at a time," Hyman said. "There's a good foundation, but we still have a ways to go with the program. It's not there. Kevin has done an absolutely marvelous job. We're going to have some challenges ahead of us.
"It's not all about facilities, because Army and Navy would be undefeated every year [if that were the case], but it's about a cross-section of a lot of different things. And there's a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement going on with the program, and I think everybody couldn't be more enthusiastic."
5dSam Khan Jr.
13dSam Khan Jr.