The season is still six months away, but as spring practice kicks off across the SEC, there are a handful of coaches already feeling the heat. In a three-part series running Wednesday, we will examine three of those coaches and what it would take for each to get the ax after the season.
After looking at Gus Malzahn and Auburn earlier, we turn our attention to Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
The skinny: Sumlin took over at Texas A&M the same year the program joined the SEC, and everything seemed to go right for the Aggies. A relative unknown Johnny Manziel won the starting quarterback job. Texas A&M stunned No. 1 Alabama on the road. And Sumlin’s group closed the season with a win over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-2.
Texas A&M was a perfect fit in the SEC, and Sumlin was the perfect fit for the Aggies. Or so we thought.
Since that year, it has been three straight seasons filled with high expectations and disappointing results. Sure, there have been some positives – including back-to-back bowl wins in 2013 and 2014 – but Texas A&M is just 4-9 against Top 25 teams during that time. And they haven’t finished above .500 in conference play since that magical first year.
It’s clearly not a lack of resources either. The school just spent north of $450 million to renovate Kyle Field, making it on the largest and most pristine stadiums in the SEC. The only thing lacking has been the on-field results.
It also doesn’t help when there is a sense of unrest in the clubhouse, and this offseason Texas A&M went from having two rising stars at quarterback to having none. Both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferred after the season, leaving Sumlin’s fate in the hands of graduate transfer Trevor Knight.
Texas A&M will fire Sumlin if: Like Malzahn, there is not a magical number of wins Sumlin needs to obtain this season to keep his job. He could win eight games, but if the Aggies lose all of the games that matter then his future still could be in jeopardy.
All told, Sumlin needs that signature win. He’s 1-7 against the likes of Alabama and LSU, with the only win coming in Tuscaloosa his first year, and he also has lost to Ole Miss two years in a row. Texas A&M is never going to win a division or conference title if it can’t beat those teams at the top of the SEC.
And at some point, shouldn’t that be the expectation? To win the SEC? To play in a bowl game outside the state of Tennessee?
The other key will be to avoid any off-the-field issues. In addition to the quarterbacks leaving, there have been various suspensions during Sumlin's four years at Texas A&M. If that trend were to continue, it will only put more pressure on him to win.