Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Sumlin feeling at home in Aggieland
By Sam Khan Jr.
It looks like Kevin Sumlin will be staying awhile.
That news should come as no surprise, given that earlier this month Sumlin and Texas A&M put the finishing touches on a new six-year, $30 million contract that could keep the coach in Aggieland through the 2019 season.
Sumlin has publicly said that maybe there will be a time he chooses to look into NFL possibilities, but that it will be later. It seems he's making good on that promise.
The most ideal situation for Sumlin would have been in Houston with the NFL's Texans. Sumlin spent the 2008-2011 seasons as the University of Houston's head coach before the Aggies came calling. He had success there, and it would be an easy transition to move back and still keep his family in a familiar situation, which is important since he and his wife, Charlene, have four kids, all of whom are in school.
But Texans owner Bob McNair said after he fired Gary Kubiak that he was looking for someone who had both head coaching experience and NFL experience. So with the Texans off the table, it makes sense for Sumlin to stay put and continue to build on what he has already achieved in maroon and white.
Since taking over the Texas A&M program, Sumlin has guided the Aggies to success in the SEC faster than most anticipated. Heading into Wednesday' night's battle against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Aggies are 19-6 in two seasons under Sumlin, finished last season ranked fifth in the country and have a chance to finish in the top 25 once again this season should they win. Texas A&M is recruiting at a high level under Sumlin, turning in the No. 8 class in the country in the 2013 recruiting cycle, and the Aggies currently have the nation's fourth-ranked 2014 class with roughly five weeks until national signing day.
As the Aggies stockpile talent, Sumlin will be charged with continuing to move the program upward. In addition to incoming talent, facilities have and continue to be built (a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field is ongoing, and the Aggies added a new weight room, nutrition center and renovated the lobby of the football complex since Sumlin arrived), and the school continues to leverage its membership in the SEC in recruiting, marketing and myriad other areas.
When asked earlier this month why he believes so strongly in Sumlin, Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said that "the proof's in the pudding."
"You look at the excitement, the momentum and enthusiasm that the program, under his tutelage, has generated," Hyman said. "There's a wide cross-section of people in Aggieland who are so appreciative of the job that he has done. The future is in good shape. This is a long-term commitment to Coach Sumlin. I don't think there's any question about it, the belief that people in Aggieland feel toward their football coach, how he represents the university, how he goes about doing his business and his primary focus is on the student-athlete and that resonates with a lot of people."
While there was no question the Aggies were committed to Sumlin moving forward, this development of Sumlin declining NFL interview requests gives weight to Sumlin's idea of making a sincere commitment to Texas A&M in return.
"As Eric said, it speaks to the university's commitment to us as a program, to me personally, but also our commitment to the university," Sumlin said. "We've got a ways to go with what we're doing, but I think what it says is that people believe we're on the right track and not just from a contractual standpoint with me. But you look around this building and what's going on with Kyle Field and the facilities that have been put in place in the last couple of years and the what's coming down the road shows a commitment to all of our athletic programs, and particularly football, and you add all those things together and I think it's what Eric said, it shows a tremendous amount of commitment to where the program is headed and I'm extremely appreciative of that."
By all accounts, Sumlin and his family seem happy in College Station. The community has embraced the family in their return -- Sumlin was a Texas A&M assistant in the early 2000s under R.C. Slocum -- and he has a chance to build a strong legacy and elevate the program to a high level.
Charlene Sumlin said earlier this year that she knew they'd eventually return to town. How or when was unknown, but she had a feeling.
"I always knew the Sumlins had unfinished business here," she said.
Looks like they'll be staying awhile to finish what they started.