It was a question Kevin Sumlin anticipated, because it’s a topic that was covered during the interview process: Why now? Why not take some time off?
Sumlin, as we know, was fired as Texas A&M’s head coach at the conclusion of the 2017 regular season, and with that came a $10.5 million buyout as part of his A&M contract, which is due in full next week. Even if you take half of that out for taxes and agent fees, that still leaves $5 million on top of the $5 million-plus salary he earned as the Aggies’ head coach for six seasons. That’s more than enough beach money to last the next three decades or so.
So why not take some time off?
At his first press conference as Arizona’s head coach Sumlin explained that he considered doing just that.
“Everything that went on at my last place, it was tough,” Sumlin said Tuesday. “It was tough on me, it was tough on family, tough on a lot of different things. Really that first week or so I really thought about (taking a year off). That first week, it was really tough. I was really tired. Then I took some time, left the country for a little bit. Went as far south as I could go without crossing the equator. I actually went four days without somebody saying, ‘Hey, Coach.’ That was really good for me.”
But as December turned into January, Sumlin went to Charlotte for the AFCA Convention. He appeared on ESPN’s “Coaches Film Room” telecast of the CFP National Championship on Monday night, but more important to him was his time speaking in front of his peers earlier in the day. “People actually showed up to hear what I had to say, which was good because I wasn’t feeling like that four weeks ago,” he said. “Being around your peers, you start to get your confidence back.”
The passage of time and the trip to the AFCA Convention helped Sumlin distance himself from the Texas A&M saga, and then the Arizona job opened. He was familiar with the school and its setting, and a lengthy interview process with U of A leadership convinced him he wanted back in and he wanted back in right now.
“I’m ready to go,” Sumlin said. “I don’t know if our players were excited as I was at 7:15 this morning, but we’ll get them there because I’m there, and I’m ready to roll.”