Kevin Sumlin will not return as Texas A&M's head coach, the program announced Sunday. With the change, Texas A&M joins Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee among SEC schools looking for new head coaches after this season.
Special teams coordinator Jeff Banks will serve as interim head coach as the program begins its full-throated and highly public pursuit of Jimbo Fisher.
FootballScoop reported earlier this month that change was expected at Texas A&M, and today's move became a mere formality following the Houston Chronicle's report this week that the Aggies would move on from Sumlin win or lose against LSU on Saturday. Today's move brings to an end one of the most public hot seat dramas in recent memory, beginning with A&M AD Scott Woodard placing a public ultimatum on Sumlin at the SEC's spring meetings in May, and reaching a fever pitch when A&M regent Tony Buzbee blasted Sumlin in a Facebook post following the Aggies' season-opening loss to UCLA. It continued when Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp refused to assert that Sumlin's job was safe at a journalism conference in September, thereby completing the trifecta of Aggie higher-ups either passive-aggressively or outright aggressively coming for Sumlin's job.
Though Sumlin never suffered anything close to a losing season at Texas A&M, his inability to win games at Kyle Field, a stadium A&M spent half a billion dollars renovating, ultimately forced the Aggies to make a change.
The loss dropped Sumlin to 51-26 overall and 25-23 against the SEC in his six seasons at Texas A&M following Saturday night's 45-21 loss at LSU. The Aggies will honor the terms of Sumlin's deal, which includes a hefty buyout.
"No matter who you are or what you do, you’re able to live with yourself if you leave something better than it was when you got there," Sumlin said Saturday night.
The quarterback position told the story of Sumlin's tenure at A&M. He exploded on the scene with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. After a 5-2 start, the Aggies won their final six games of the 2012 season -- including a 29-24 win at No. 1 and eventual national champion Alabama -- as the Aggies raced to a No. 5 finish in both polls. The instant and unexpected success of that season created a precedent for Texas A&M's expectations to compete in the SEC, which the program could then never match. The Aggies never finished above .500 in SEC play after 2012.
Sumlin continued to recruit quarterbacks well after Manziel's departure following the 2013 season, but his inability to keep them on campus eventually did him in. Four-star Kenny Hill transferred to TCU. Five-star Kyle Allen transferred to Houston. Five-star Kyler Murray left for Oklahoma. Each departure followed the same pattern: a young quarterback experiences instant success, struggles, is benched either to injury or regressing play and then leaves campus, leaving an even younger quarterback to replace him.
That cycle left the Aggies unprepared at the most important position heading into a make-or-break 2017 season, and a bad situation became worse when redshirt freshman Nick Starkel was knocked out of the UCLA game with a broken ankle, forcing true freshman Kellen Mond into action and opening the door for the Bruins' season-altering 34-point comeback. Mond ultimately played the bulk of the season at quarterback.
While a line of demarcation in Sumlin's six seasons can be drawn before and after Johnny Manziel's departure, a line in each of the four post-Manziel seasons can also be drawn based around one opponent: Alabama.
Texas A&M Before and After Alabama Game, 2014-17
2014: 5-2 before, 3-3 after
2015: 5-0 before, 3-5 after
2016: 6-0 before, 2-5 after
2017: 4-1 before, 1-3 after
Overall: 16-3 before, 9-16 after
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