Would Sumlin leave A&M? Examining historical trends of the coaching carousel


It seems like there’s a prevalent notion that A&M fans shouldn't be getting their hopes up about our current level of success, simply because Sumlin is bound to break our hearts and end up coaching at USC. I might be drinking the maroon kool-aid, but I don’t think we’re a "stepping stone" school, nor do I think we’d bat an eye at being able to match another school’s financial offer to Coach Sumlin. That being said, I decided to do a little bit of research to see just how often one head coach leaves a solid football school (I don’t think it’s a stretch to call A&M solid, do you?) for a supposed CFB "blue blood"

Note—this does not discount the possibility of losing Sumlin to the NFL. That is certainly a possibility down the road.

So here’s what I did. Below is a list, in rank order, of the winningest programs in CFB. I've removed the non-B/CS programs (like Harvard, Yale, etc) because I don’t think they are germane to the conversation. I've then included the year the programs last made a coaching transition (based on hire date), where the incoming coach came from, and what position they held at their former institution:


Below are some facts:

  • The coaches on this list have been in their current position for an average of 6 years
  • Longest tenured coach is Frank Beamer at 26 years
  • 4 teams hired coaches who were defensive coordinators, 6 hired offensive coordinators, and 14 hired head coaches (counting Urban Meyer as unemployed at the time of his hire by Ohio State)

Out of all the coaching transitions listed, I count three that could be considered in the same category as Sumlin to USC: Lane Kiffin to USC from Tennessee, Bret Bielema from Wisconsin to Arkansas, and maaaaybe Les Miles from Oklahoma State to LSU (I'm not sold on this one). Let's break down available information on how/why those happened.

Les Miles to LSU
Sure. You can have this one. No history between the two, just a simple process of one larger program taking the coach of a smaller program. We could argue all day as to whether you can really compare A&M to Oklahoma State (think back to Oklahoma State in 2005 in the pre-Boone Pickens era). I don’t think you can, but I’m open for debate.

Lane Kiffin to USC
This is an interesting one. Lane Kiffin’s reputation aside, speculation was that USC was interested in hiring someone they were familiar with--someone with USC ties, hence the candidacy of folks like Mike Riley, Jack Del Rio, and Steve this offer didn’t come out of the blue. Kiffin had a history at USC and was willing to make the jump after a short stint as head coach of the Vols.

Bret Bielema to Arkansas
This one was another head scratcher. But it's been documented that Bret Bielema was not happy with the budget he had for his assistant coaches at Wisconsin, and was looking for another opportunity.

So that's it. Out of the 25 coaching changes occurring for this group of teams in the past 20+ years, three are comparable to A&M potentially losing Coach Sumlin to USC. But let’s go even further and look at where some of the supposed "blue bloods" (top 5 in wins) hired their two coaches from:

Michigan: Hoke from San Diego State
Texas: Mack Brown from North Carolina
Notre Dame: Brian Kelly from Cincinnatti
Nebraska: Bo Pelini, DC at LSU
Alabama is an outlier with Nick Saban, but who'd they hire before that? Mike Shula, then QB coach of the Miami Dolphins.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is that it's certainly possible that Sumlin would leave Texas A&M for USC...but it's not probable.Rarely does a coach leave one "decent" program for another larger program unless there's a clear cut reason (history, lack of pay, etc). Sumlin has no connection to USC, and unless there's some other motivating factor at play, history does not support the notion that a coach would leave Texas A&M for USC.

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