Opinion: His territory
Sumlin's success at A&M has generated national attention, that means the system is working
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 00:10
College football is cyclical — one of the sport’s more famous catchphrases, and a well-known slogan among the Texas A&M faithful in the past decade. In a nutshell, the cycle ever-present in each program’s history boils down to collection of four distinct periods: contraction, recession, expansion and boom.
Over the course of the past season and a half, A&M has proceeded to rocket out of its recession directly into its boom, thanks not only to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but head coach Kevin Sumlin as well.
At some point or another, every college football program has experienced the rush associated with the affirmation of a recent head coaching hire. It comes in many forms: a crucial victory, a jaw-dropping statement from behind the podium or simply the swagger with which he carries himself.
And every fan thinks the same thing — “he’s going to run this program forever.”
For Aggies, that moment of confirmation came Nov. 10 of last season, as A&M downed top-ranked and future national champion Alabama in a 29-24 road upset.
Since then, the program has been an awakened giant, with Sumlin as the divine bolt of lightning sent to spark the program’s ascent back into the upper echelon of college football.
Unlike the professional arena, quality coaching remains a vital factor in a program’s ultimate success over the course of an extended period of time. Superstar pro athletes such as Peyton Manning or LeBron James are comparable to Alabama’s Nick Saban or Stanford’s David Shaw in college sports, as developing a recruiting process while maintaining on-the-field success is crucial when building a program from the bottom up.
As such, Sumlin’s ability to transform an underachieving A&M program into a national contender has made him a valuable commodity on the coaching carousel, particularly to the few elite programs with current issues at the position.
Southern California, a perennial powerhouse, is one such program, as athletic director Pat Haden unceremoniously fired former head coach Lane Kiffin Sunday morning on the tarmac following the Trojans embarrassing 61-42 road loss to Arizona State.
During Tuesday’s weekly press conference, Sumlin addressed the rumors swirling around his name’s presence on the USC short list, noting his avoidance of the issue while in-season.
“They only talk about coaches two ways,” Sumlin said. “One of them is you’re not going to be around and other way is either you’re moving on or something else is happening. As long as I’m not in that first conversation, we’re doing something right. Our players get that. Our recruits get that. I don’t talk about those types of things with anybody. It’s just part of the job.”
The key component of his response — “As long as I’m not in that first conversation, we’re doing something right.”
Translation: as long as Texas A&M is progressing positively, which includes my receiving offers from other quality programs, I’m doing my job correctly.
Should Aggies be concerned Sumlin might jet for a perpetual power such as USC? Most certainly. Sumlin’s the complete package coaching-wise, scoring top marks in terms of his contagious energy, recruiting prowess, youthful charisma and major-program experience, not to mention untouchable swagger.
However, these types of worries are the baggage associated with actually being good in the modern day and age.
The same rules apply to the football team itself, currently ranked ninth nationally, as opponents — excuse my football jargon — “get up” specifically when facing A&M, just as Arkansas did last Saturday in the Aggies’ 45-33 victory in Fayetteville.
When other programs want to steal your coach, wreck your team on the field, kick your dog, kiss your girl and eat your lunch, you know you’re doing something right. It’s part of the hierarchy, because when you’re at the top, everyone below is looking to knock you off your throne.
Last March, Sumlin signed a five-year contract that ranges from $2.85 million (2017-18) to $3.25 million (2014-17) with a current $2 million buyout. That deal won’t last forever. With USC in the market, that deal may not even last until tomorrow, but while Sumlin remains in College Station, Texas A&M will continue to stand as the hot-topic program in the southwest.
Personally, I suggest enjoying both the challenges and rewards of success, because it’s not going to last forever. Remember, college football is cyclical, and there’s no way to break the cycle.