The end of Kevin Sumlin’s tenure at Texas A&M has finally arrived. The coach was officially fired Sunday afternoon.
Based off the happenings of the past seven months, Sumlin’s departure from the school isn’t a surprise. In May, athletic director Scott Woodward said an 8-5 campaign in 2016 was disappointing and Sumlin needed to win now.
Wednesday, a report in the Houston Chronicle said Sumlin would be fired after Saturday’s game vs. LSU. The Aggies lost that game to drop to 7-5 on the season. A bowl game win for Texas A&M would be the school’s fourth-straight 8-5 season.
That’s clearly not enough for A&M. Jeff Banks will be the team’s interim coach for the bowl game.
“Kevin’s tenure included some remarkable achievements and he leaves our program as one of the winningest football coaches in our storied history,” Woodward said in a statement announcing Sumlin’s firing. “Kevin made us a better all-around football program and led our program with dignity and character. He’s a first-class person.”
“Our expectations at A&M are very high. We believe that we should compete for SEC championships on an annual basis and, at times, national championships. I believe that we need a new coach to take us there. On behalf of Aggies everywhere, my thanks to Kevin and his family for his service to Texas A&M. I wish him the very best.”
Sumlin referenced Woodward’s May comments after the loss to the Tigers. When asked about “distractions” stemming from the report of his expected ouster, Sumlin had this to say.
“Somebody asked me before the game, I think [SEC Network reporter] Cole [Cubelic] asked me, he said with everything that’s gone on this week are you guys distracted? I said, ‘This week? It’s been going on since spring,’” Sumlin said. “So [the players] have handled that the whole time.”
Sumlin was hired at Texas A&M before the 2012 season. That was the Aggies’ first in the SEC and the team upset Alabama and finished 11-2 thanks to a Heisman Trophy winner named Johnny Manziel.
Perhaps that first season set unrealistic expectations for A&M’s success in the SEC West, a division that includes Alabama, Auburn and LSU. A&M won nine games the next season and, as previously noted, eight games in each of the three most recent seasons.
The team was seemingly set up well for success at quarterback in the years after Manziel’s departure following the 2013 season. But that hasn’t happened. Kyle Allen, a five-star recruit, transferred to Houston. Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma and is now Baker Mayfield’s backup. And Kenny Hill — who emerged as a darling in 2014 — transferred to TCU, where he’s now the starting quarterback.
Redshirt freshman Nick Starkel started A&M’s 2017 season opener against UCLA. In that game, the Aggies jumped out to a 44-10 lead. But Starkel suffered an ankle injury in the second half and Texas A&M collapsed. UCLA came back to win 45-44.
A regent called for Sumlin’s firing in the hours after the game and, later that week, an alleged Texas A&M fan sent a racist letter to Sumlin’s house. Given the combination of Woodward’s ultimatum in May and the way A&M started the season, it felt inevitable the 2017 season would end like this for the relationship between Sumlin and the Aggies.
– – – – – – –