SEC: Eric Hyman

Sumlin feeling at home in Aggieland

December, 31, 2013

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.

But when it comes to a league like the NFL, you can never count out deep-pocketed owners and the allure of coaching at the highest level. That's hard for anybody to turn down. However, Chris Mortensen reported on Tuesday that Sumlin is essentially saying "thanks, but no thanks" to NFL teams that have openings.

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Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsWith a new contract in place and facilities upgrades ongoing, Kevin Sumlin has laid to rest any possibility of a jump to the NFL in the immediate future.
So it looks like Sumlin's getting comfortable in College Station. That's good news for the Aggies and Sumlin is being richly rewarded for doing so.

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.

Texas A&M focused on long-term success

December, 2, 2013
Texas A&M lost a game to Missouri on Saturday, but that setback pales in comparison to the bigger picture for the Aggies.

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsCoach Kevin Sumlin is a big part of Texas A&M's long-term success.
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."

SEC helps A&M, LSU rekindle rivalry

November, 22, 2013
How long has it been since Texas A&M traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to play LSU at Tiger Stadium? Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin offers perspective.

"It's a little bit different for our current players than maybe it is for our former students or our fans," Sumlin said. "That was [19] years ago. Guys like [starting middle linebacker] Darian Claiborne, shoot, they couldn't even walk the last time we went to Tiger Stadium."

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Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesKevin Sumlin will take Texas A&M back to Death Valley for the first time in 19 years.
To be exact, Sept. 3, 1994, was the previous trip the Aggies made to Death Valley. Texas A&M won 18-13, and the teams played the next season at Kyle Field, a 33-17 win for the Aggies.

The 1995 battle was the last of 10 straight and the teams didn't meet again until the Cotton Bowl brought them together in 2010. The major shifts that shook up college football because of conference realignment have broken up many rivalries, but in this particular case, it rekindled an old one, with the Aggies and Tigers becoming conference mates in the SEC West Division.

LSU and Texas A&M have a long history together; the Tigers lead the all-time series 28-20-3. Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, who coached in seven of those battles, called it a “great rivalry.”

"I think over the years it's been a natural thing because the closeness of the two states and the environment," said Slocum, who was born in Louisiana and coached high school football in that state, but grew up in Orange, Texas, virtually on the Texas/Louisiana border. "There were so many people, particularly in Southeast Texas and in Houston in the oil industry that had Louisiana ties. And if you went into southeastern Louisiana and down to New Orleans, again, because of the oil industry, there were a lot of people with Texas ties.”

It was a bit of baptism by fire for former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo. When the teams met in 1995, it was DiNardo's first game as the Tigers' coach. And he had the unenviable task of coaching the season opener at raucous Kyle Field.

"I don't know that anybody wants to open up at A&M when you take over a job," DiNardo said with a laugh.

"I really didn't know much about it. I was in the Southeast for four years at Vanderbilt, then I went to LSU. When you first take over a job, there's so many things that you have to do that honestly, you don't pay much attention to your first opponent until it's close up.

"I did have an appreciation for the rivalry. It was a great setting and a good game."

The teams' first meeting dates to 1899 and the teams played sporadically until 1942, which began a series of seven straight years that the teams played. They met annually from 1960 to 1975, then not again until 1986, which started a string of eight consecutive matchups.

The teams were to continue playing through at least the 1997 season, but LSU chose not to play the final two games that were part of a 10-year contract that began in the 1988 season.

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Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesGerry DiNardo's first taste of the rivalry came in his first-ever game as LSU's coach.
DiNardo suspects that the SEC expansion that turned the conference into a 12-team league and split it into two divisions in 1992 was a big factor in ending the rivalry at that time.

"When the SEC went to two six-team divisions, everybody thought they were all going to kill one another," DiNardo said. "I was at Vanderbilt the first year we had that and I'm sitting in the coaches' meetings and coaches were saying, 'We will never win another national championship game.'

"Alabama won it that year and obviously, the rest is history. Just the opposite happened."

Now the teams share the same division and will see each other annually. With Texas A&M not playing longtime rival Texas -- its former Southwest Conference and Big 12 Conference mate -- for the foreseeable future, it could be LSU that emerges as the Aggies' traditional Thanksgiving weekend rival. The teams are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving in 2014.

"I am ecstatic about LSU and being able to play on Thursday of Thanksgiving," Texas A&M athletics director Eric Hyman said when the SEC schedule was announced in August. "To be able to play LSU just makes a natural rivalry, the proximity and everything else."

There also should be some familiarity with players on each side, as LSU recruits Texas and Texas A&M recruits Louisiana. As long as Sumlin and Les Miles are coaching, that will continue. But for it to develop as a rivalry, the teams might have to play each other a few more times consecutively and it won't hurt if both teams are successful -- as they are right now, with both in the top 25 of the BCS standings -- when those meetings occur.

"For our fans, it has the potential [to become a rivalry]," Sumlin said. " . . . I've got a feeling that as soon as we try to get into Tiger Stadium tomorrow at about 12:30, they'll figure out what kind of atmosphere we're playing in and what kind of rivalry it is."
ESPN’s Travis Haney reported late Monday that NCAA investigators met with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Sunday, seeking clarification on allegations from autograph dealers that he accepted payments for a series of signing sessions.

A source told Haney that the NCAA officials met with Manziel for nearly six hours in College Station.

Aggies athletic director Eric Hyman released a statement on Monday evening indicating that head coach Kevin Sumlin, assistant coaches and players were asked not to comment on the status of Manziel, who is the subject of an NCAA investigation into allegations that he profited from signing autographs. Sumlin, his coordinators and several players are scheduled to meet the media on Tuesday for the Aggies' regularly scheduled weekly news conference.

“The focus of our coaches and student-athletes is solely on preparing for Rice this Saturday, and in the best interests of Texas A&M and the 100-plus student-athletes on the team, I have instructed Coach Sumlin, his staff and our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel," Hyman said.

It is worth noting that both Hyman and senior associate athletic director for external affairs Jason Cook referred to Manziel as the Aggies' "starting quarterback" on Monday evening. Cook did so in a tweet related to Hyman's statement.

Manziel was listed No. 1 on the Aggies' recently released depth chart. Starting defensive tackle Kirby Ennis, who is suspended for the season opener, is also listed first on the depth chart, so that isn't necessarily an indicator of Manziel's status. When asked at different times during preseason training camp this month, Sumlin hasn't indicated whether he plans to start Manziel in the season opener. Manziel spent the duration of training camp taking practice repetitions with the first team.

Manziel has not spoken to the media since the news of the NCAA's inquiry into the allegations against him broke on Aug. 4. After addressing his redshirt sophomore quarterback's status briefly on the first day of training camp, Sumlin has directed all questions about Manziel's off-the-field status to Cook.

Cook or the athletic department also hasn't commented on Manziel's status or whether he will play. Last week, Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp did make strong comments in support of Manziel, telling Bryan, Texas, television station KBTX: "I know he's innocent. I know that he didn't do what they accused him of doing.”

Early this month, Manziel's attorney, Jim Darnell, predicted while he was a guest on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" that Manziel would start against Rice.

Last season, Manziel compiled an SEC record 5,116 total offensive yards along with 47 total touchdowns. He became the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy.

Manziel is not scheduled to appear at the Aggies' news conference on Tuesday. Manziel's backup on Saturday will be either junior Matt Joeckel or true freshman Kenny Hill.

Joeckel appeared in five games last season and attempted 11 passes. Hill is a three-star prospect out of Southlake (Texas) Carroll who signed with the Aggies in February.

Lunchtime links

June, 17, 2013
Kanye and Jay-Z are about to seriously damage my eardrums with all this music they are churning out this summer!

SEC lunchtime links

June, 14, 2013
If you aren't putting avocado on pretty much everything, then you're doing it wrong.

Also, “College Football Live” will be discussing Alabama-Texas A&M today at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, so make sure you tune in!
DESTIN, Fla. -- As the SEC bigwigs meet in sunny Florida for this year's spring meetings, talk continues about the league considering a conference-wide substance abuse policy.

If passed by the presidents this week, the SEC would be the first conference to have its own uniform drug policy.

Here's a little from our newser:
The penalties for a first, second or third positive test would be the same for each conference school and not determined by the individual schools.

It is not definite that the presidents will have enough support to bring it to a vote, but the fact it's even being discussed at the president level is significant, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.

"I don't think it's necessary to get down into the weeds as far as how many times you test, what are the measurements, what are the minimum [levels for a positive test]," McGarity said, "but we believe there should be some type of consistent penalty [for each positive test]."

Based on the substance-abuse policies obtained by ESPN from the schools' official websites or through public records requests, a student-athlete at Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU is dismissed after a fourth positive test, while the remaining 10 SEC schools dismiss a student-athlete after a third positive test.

The schools' substance-abuse policies are for recreational drugs – such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Each university determines the punishment for each positive test.

This is a tricky situation for the presidents because schools have vastly differing opinions about drug testing and what they deem is the right way to do it. As ESPN colleague Brett McMurphy points out, it shouldn't be as difficult for the schools to agree on punishment, but the amount of testing, type of testing and what is considered a positive test could all be viewed differently by each school.

There's also a sense that some schools are too lenient when it comes to testing, and maybe some schools think a new uniform policy could be too much.

"Even if nobody else does [testing], we're going to do what we think is the right thing to do," Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said. "If another school wants to do it a certain way and regulate it a certain way, that's their prerogative. What are we trying to do anyway? We're trying to help young people. I don't want another school to tell me how to do it."
The head football coaches in the SEC are some of the highest paid in the country.

Eight of the 14 head coaches in the league make $3 million or more per year.

The athletic directors in the SEC aren't exactly going poor, but many of the other athletic directors at traditional football powerhouse schools are making more than their SEC colleagues.

USA Today did a study Wednesday of athletic director salaries at the 124 FBS schools. According to the study, Vanderbilt's David Williams was far and away No. 1 on the list at $3,239,678. As is pointed out in USA Today's piece, Williams wore several different hats at Vanderbilt during the period covered by the university's most recent available federal tax return. He was vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel and university secretary for Vanderbilt and its medical center as well as a tenured law professor. As of July 2012, Williams' title changed to vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He no longer had the roles of general counsel and university secretary, but remains a tenured law professor.

After Williams, Florida's Jeremy Foley is the highest-paid athletic director in the SEC at $1,233,250. He's the only other athletic director in the league who makes $1 million or more in salary.

However, according to USA Today's study, Louisville's Tom Jurich ($1,411,915), Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000), Nebraska's Shawn Eichorst ($1,123,000), Texas' DeLoss Dodds ($1,109,041), Ohio State's Gene Smith ($1,099,030), Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick ($1,026,942) and Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione ($1 million) are all at $1 million or more. Michigan's Dave Brandon makes $900,000.

The Big Ten obviously values its athletic directors.

Below is a list of what the SEC athletic directors are making, according to USA Today's figures:
  • David Williams, Vanderbilt: $3,239,678
  • Jeremy Foley, Florida: $1,233,250
  • Jeff Long, Arkansas: $903,900
  • Dave Hart, Tennessee: $817,250
  • Eric Hyman, Texas A&M: $800,000
  • Joe Alleva, LSU: $725,000
  • Ray Tanner, South Carolina: $675,000
  • Mike Alden, Missouri: $674,317
  • Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky: $654,000
  • Jay Jacobs, Auburn: $615,000
  • Mal Moore, Alabama: $600,500
  • Greg McGarity, Georgia: $525,000
  • Scott Stricklin, Miss. State: $450,000
  • Ross Bjork, Ole Miss: $400,000

Missouri's Mike Alden ($347,915), Alabama's Mal Moore ($255,000) and Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart ($240,000) have the largest maximum bonuses in their contracts.

SEC lunch links

July, 6, 2012
Our Friday stroll around the league:
Think Texas A&M is excited to be in the SEC?

On Monday, the Aggies' second official day in the league, they raised the flags of their SEC brethren in front of the McFerrin Athletic Center on campus while new athletic director Eric Hyman led chants of "S-E-C" with students and fans.

Hyman certainly knows what the Aggies are getting into. He was the athletic director at South Carolina for seven years prior to replacing Bill Byrne at Texas A&M this past weekend.

"Going into the SEC and knowing Texas and the support, the love, the loyalty, the connection that people have to this university, we have hope," said Hyman, who was at TCU before going to South Carolina. "We have a chance. Is it going to be easy? No. It's not going to be easy, trust me. But it's going to be fun."

First-year head football coach Kevin Sumlin was also on hand for the ceremony and is fully aware what being a part of the SEC can mean for a program.

"It depends on how you measure it, but certainly if you look at (the SEC) from a football standpoint, how many draft choices over the last 10 years, six straight national championships, you look across the league -- just this year -- basketball national champions, softball, on and on and on across the board, it's hard to argue that it's not the best league in the country," Sumlin said.
OK, now it’s official.

Missouri and Texas A&M are the newest members of the SEC. Actually, Sunday was their first day, but it was too hot in the South to do anything but find refuge in the shade (or air conditioning).

So, today, we officially welcome the Tigers and Aggies to the SEC and the SEC blog.

Something tells me they won’t be as warmly welcomed on the football field this fall.

This was already a killer league, and it just got tougher.

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AP PhotoNew Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will have his hands full in the SEC.
There’s a reason SEC teams have won six consecutive national championships. The commitment, passion and overall talent level in this league are unlike anything else in college football.

Either you adapt or languish near the bottom.

Do they always play by the letter of the law in the SEC?

Not necessarily.

In fact, the unwritten rule in the SEC used to be, “If you’re not cheating, then you’re not trying.”

The SEC’s critics (aka all of the other leagues that are weary of seeing the SEC win every year) insist there’s no “used to be” to it.

Commissioner Mike Slive has done his part to clean up the league and improve its image with regard to rules compliance, but there still have been more than a few high-profile investigations the past few years, not to mention appearances before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

Nothing is sacred, and nobody is untouchable in this league. Coaches go from one SEC address to another. Even players have shown up elsewhere within the conference’s confines after washing out or running into trouble at their first stop.

That Cam Newton fellow did pretty well during his second tour through the league, and so did Auburn, the team that got him.

It’s probably fitting that Texas A&M introduced Eric Hyman as its new athletic director Sunday, the same day the Aggies became a card-carrying member of the SEC. Obviously, the Aggies are quick learners. They swiped Hyman away from South Carolina.

What’s the conference going to look like with 14 members, and will there ever be 16 members?

Slive insists the league is not looking to expand past 14. But if the right teams are dangling out there and genuinely interested in making the move, you can bet the SEC would pounce.

It will be interesting to see how the new schedule -- which won’t begin until 2013 -- pans out. There are new permanent opponents, and for the time being, the SEC still will play just eight conference games.

Somewhere down the road, I can see that expanding to nine conference games, which won’t be popular with the coaches.

One of those new permanent cross-divisional games is South Carolina versus Texas A&M, so Hyman will get to keep close tabs on his old school.

Texas A&M has a richer football tradition than Missouri. We football junkies know all about Kyle Field, the 12th Man, and how Aggies from all over that state come out of the woodwork on fall Saturdays.

Lately, though, success on the field has been hard to come by for Texas A&M, which is why Kevin Sumlin is in his first season as the Aggies’ coach. Going back to the 1996 season, they’ve only won two bowl games and have been ranked in the final Top 25 polls only once in the past decade.

Of the two newest SEC members, Missouri might be better positioned to have more success early. For starters, the Tigers will compete in the East and not the West, which is just a notch below the NFC East.

And if James Franklin’s throwing shoulder is healthy, Missouri also has an experienced quarterback who can get it done both passing and running.

Ultimately, both teams will have to recruit at a dizzying level if they’re going to contend for championships in this league. That’s where Texas A&M might have the edge. In the latest 2013 recruiting rankings by ESPN, the Aggies were No. 6 nationally. Of course, they had three SEC teams (No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia) ahead of them.

It’s always a wild ride in this league.

But in the newly expanded world of the SEC, it should be as exhilarating as ever.

So hold on … with both hands.

Reports have Hyman heading to A&M

June, 29, 2012
Multiple reports are out now that Eric Hyman is switching addresses in the SEC.

Hyman, who's done an excellent job in his seven years at South Carolina and navigated the Gamecocks' athletic department through some storms, is headed back to the state of Texas to take the Texas A&M athletic director's job, the Associated Press is reporting.

Hyman came to South Carolina from TCU, and on his watch, the Gamecocks have had unprecedented success in a number of sports, including football. His name has come up in the last year for several other athletic director searches, most notably North Carolina's and Tennessee's.

SEC lunch links

June, 29, 2012
It's time to take a break from the heat on this sweltering Friday and dive into some SEC lunch links:

SEC lunch links

February, 7, 2011
Some Monday links to jump-start the week:

Lunchtime links: Pricey upgrades for Vols

July, 28, 2010
A few SEC links to munch on: