David Cloninger

The coaching heat is on at Texas A&M

It sounded familiar because the same story was discussed last year.

Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin might not have an opportunity to sit down this season because whatever chair he chooses is rather toasty.

“Nobody puts more pressure on me than me,” Sumlin said Wednesday. “That pressure never changes. We’re here to compete for championships.”

Even in July, two months before a ball is snapped, the hot seat is a popular topic. Not many coaches in the country, and nobody in the SEC, are feeling the heat as much as Sumlin.

Sumlin’s first season was an 11-2 triumph but was followed by a lackluster 9-4. Then without the talents – or controversy – of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, A&M posted three consecutive 8-5 seasons. Sumlin owns the best four-year win total in school history, but that isn’t nearly enough.

There’s a lot of grousing from a money-printing factory that holds its football success as near to its heart as its military background. When all of those 8-5 seasons came after the Aggies began 5-0, 5-0 and 6-0, the Bunsen burner under Sumlin received a fresh gas line.

A&M won two games the rest of the season after starting 6-0 last year. Sumlin hasn’t had a winning SEC record except for his first season. He could brush it off as just us media types speculating, but his athletics director supplied the kindling for the fire this summer.

“Coach Sumlin knows he has to win,” Scott Woodward imperiously toned to Paul Finebaum during the SEC spring meetings. “He has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.”


“It didn’t make me feel any different. I’ve known Scott a long time,” Sumlin said. “It’s part of coaching. You know that when you get into it. Whatever happens, it’s not going to change how I do my job. I get a lot of things yelled at me all the time. I’m used to that.”

The Aggies at SEC media days said they’re confident, that they don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff and they’re ready to go. Not “playing for coach,” but playing to get back to that elite level.

It won’t be easy. A&M starts at UCLA and, after two nonconference games at home, it plays Arkansas at Jerry World. The Aggies get South Carolina at home, then play Alabama and Florida in back-to-back weeks, the Gators on the road.

They end with two straight road games, Ole Miss and LSU. The Aggies still haven’t beaten the Tigers since they joined the league.

Who knows if Woodward has a number of games in mind, or winning a “name” game in order to keep Sumlin around, but in any case, there are 10 million really good reasons not to make a change. Sumlin has a monster buyout, but at A&M, spending large amounts of cash has never been a problem.

“It’s really not my concern, I just know that I love coach Sumlin, I love the program he’s put together, the staff he’s put together,” offensive lineman Koda Martin said. “I believe that he’s doing everything he can to make sure we’re going to win, that we’re prepared. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people just don’t see.”

Will that be enough with another 8-5 record?

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