Put on the oven mitts, kiddies, because Coaching Carousel Season brings out the takes. It somehow gets very personal. When a journo suggests that your school’s program isn’t an ELITE head coaching job, why, he might as well say your degree from there is worthless.
The national media often doesn’t know what to make of Texas A&M. Many view the football program as a perennially underachieving sleeping giant. Others enjoy poking us with a stick because, candidly, we’re more trollable than the Taylor Swift fan club off their adderall. Aggie internetters are a temporary lifeboat for a dying profession in a dying industry. We can give a journo a few thousand clicks so that next freelancing check comes in. Are we heroes? I say yes.
Today’s take comes out of Saturday Down South. I know. I’m as surprised as you. Evidently the electric bill is paid and they still have a shingle hanging outside their door.
Let’s dive in.
What if targeting is good? (And it seems like it isn’t)
What if this is all there is to life? (And it seems like it is)
The author opens:
This isn’t going to go over well with Aggie Nation
ho ho ho here we go folks. FINALLY someone with the courage to speak TRUTH to POWER.
but the possibility is very real — and history will back it up — that Aggies football is at or near its ceiling. It may be uncomfortable for Aggies fans to see it laid out in black and white, but Texas A&M is not and never has been an elite football program.
Elite football programs: New England Patriots, Alabama, Joe Flacco, Brazil
What the hell constitutes “elite”? College football has about 8-10 historical blue bloods: Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Michigan, Texas, and Nebraska.
This week’s College Football Playoff Top 15 along with MY elite status:
- Alabama - blue blood
- Clemson - was in Texas A&M’s current shoes 5-10 years ago
- Miami - loads of talent, shit facilities, fickle fans
- Oklahoma - blue blood
- Wisconsin - about as much historical success as A&M
- Auburn - basically A&M with a Cam season and more effective/discreet bending of rules
- Georgia - incredible underachievers. Two conference titles in the last 35 years.
- Notre Dame - blue blood
- Ohio State - blue blood
- Penn State - 30 years removed from a Natty
- USC - blue blood
- TCU - without Gary Patterson they’re SMU sans cash handouts
- Oklahoma State - one conference title in 40+ years
- Washington State - two conference titles in 80+ years
- UCF - commuter school with all the history and character of the city in which is resides
Those are the schools in spitting distance of the Playoff this season. Five blue bloods and ten programs ranging from zero historical success to the rare national championship.
Moving to the SEC brought heightened expectations. Playing in the nation’s best conference was a move that most perceived would elevate the program, perhaps through osmosis, to new levels.
Yes, the hopes were hinging on osmosis.
While time is probably up for Sumlin, I have no problem conceding that the program is in a better place now than it was six years ago.
Sustained excellence is the primary gauge for hanging elite status on a program.
Thank you, Elite Gestapo. Say, how was Alabama football from 1997-2006? Did you know that before 2011, Clemson went 20 years without a 10 win season? Hell, in the last 20 years, the Texas Longhorns have two conference championships. Might as well pluck off one more - from 1980 to 2002, USC won 10 games once.
In case I wasn’t clear earlier - I fully concede that A&M is not in the blue blood class with the programs I just listed. Point is - if a program makes 2 or 3 bad hires (a VERY easy thing to do) then there are going to be lean years.
Conversely, a great hire can thrust a program right to the top of the college football world despite some glaring inherent program disadvantages. In the modern era, TCU with Patterson, Michigan State with Dantonio, anyone with Mike Leach, Stanford with Harbaugh and Shaw, and Oregon with Kelly all jump to mind.
The current streak of eight (will be nine) consecutive bowl appearances is the best such run in program history. Sumlin’s teams have qualified for bowls in all six of his seasons. No other coach in program history put together such a string, and his three-game bowl win streak is also the most by any head coach in Texas A&M history. That could perhaps help explain why Sumlin is still around.
Bowl streaks don’t really mean shit in this millennium and no one is crediting Sumlin for this feat.
The facilities may be top notch, but the program historically simply hasn’t been. Even in four seasons under the legendary Bear Bryant, the Aggies never won a bowl game, losing 3-0 to Tennessee in the 1957 Gator Bowl, his only postseason appearance at Texas A&M.
Well if we couldn’t win with Bear in 1957, then we’re screwed in 2018.
“Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Applies to stocks, mostly applies to this crazy ass sport we love too.
Yes, while there won’t be many who will admit it, the Texas A&M football program is at its ceiling, at least historically speaking. Sure, the Aggies could catch lightning in a bottle and win a national championship.
Or, many won’t admit it because they know that once A&M hires the right coach, the sky is the limit.
And “catch lightning in a bottle” is what every single college football program is trying to do. It’s called “hiring a great coach.” Miami is trying with Mark Richt. Penn State is trying with James Franklin. TCU and Oklahoma State have certainly hired their once-in-a-generation coaches.
Historically speaking, Minnesota has nine national championships. Pitt has ELEVEN. Would you buy stock in their programs over Texas A&M in 2017?
Texas A&M AD Scott Woodward set the expectations for Sumlin, Aggies football, and the future of both, when he stated before the season that more than eight wins is the acceptable bar. Perhaps he is being more realistic than most.
Not what Woodward said.
Look, no rational Aggie (yes, some of those unicorns do exist) expect the program to win 10+ games every season.
My standard for the head coach of Texas A&M football has been clear for a long time. It can be summed up in a simple question:
Are you playing meaningful football in November?
I don’t expect a trip to Atlanta every season. I sure as shit don’t expect it while god is still coaching in Tuscaloosa.
But I do think it’s reasonable to regularly be in the position Auburn is in right now - competing for a division championship in November and controlling your own destiny. If you’re regularly playing meaningful football games in November, there will be trips to the SEC Championship at some point. That puts you in the College Football Playoff discussion.
The Aggies (6-4, 3-3) would need to win out to reach nine wins, with games at Mississippi, at LSU and at whatever bowl they make. Otherwise, the best they can hope for is a fourth straight 8-5 season. Perhaps Sumlin will be gone regardless. But it’s hard to see a new guy doing a whole lot better.
So the moral of the story is to not roll the dice? We don’t even know who “new guy” is. This EXACT same argument could have been written about Tommy Bowden and Clemson. “Well, shucks. This is as good as it’ll get. Guess we’ll just meander on toward the grave.”
Texas A&M football isn’t at its ceiling. It’s hovering right around it’s floor. Sumlin has had a tumultuous tenure with erratic ups and downs and still wins eight games.
Sure, the next guy might win six games. When talking about real goals like winning championships, I fail to see a difference between six and eight wins. So why not take a swing?
I’ve got a hunch that there will be some very good coaches who are interested in an SEC job with unlimited resources, the best facilities, and great recruiting.