Sum­lin should go at A&M

Ag­gies, and their good but em­bat­tled coach, need to part ways fol­low­ing yet an­other slug­gish sea­son.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORTS - Kirk Bohls Com­men­tary

COL­LEGE STA­TION — On a gor­geous, cloudy fall af­ter­noon, Texas A&M’s mys­ti­fy­ing team played dom­i­nant foot­ball for the bet­ter part of a half against one of the league’s best teams be­fore a mul­ti­tude of mis­takes and a bunch of big plays doomed the Ag­gies to yet an­other re­sound­ing de­feat.

At home, no less. Not that the lo­cale has seemed to make much dif­fer­ence of late.

The loss prob­a­bly also doomed Kevin Sum­lin to his fate. Or should.

The pat­tern of suc­cess­ful starts by Sum­lin teams, only to be fol­lowed by em­bar­rass­ing, if but pre­dictable, fin­ishes in the sec­ond half of al­most ev­ery sea­son, con­tin­ued once more as 14th-ranked Auburn scored 28 unan­swered points to build a huge lead and win go­ing away 42-27 to edge the be­sieged Ag­gies coach ever closer to the un­em­ploy­ment line.

The end is near. And needs to be.

Some­times a sit­u­a­tion can get so bleak and so stale that both par­ties sim­ply need a change of scenery. It seems Sum­lin might want to part ways as badly as A&M and its fan base do. Of course, he’d leave with a $10 mil­lion buy­out, so that makes a nice part­ing gift.

“Our ath­letic direc­tor will make that de­ci­sion,” A&M Chan­cel­lor John Sharp told me, “and I’m con­fi­dent it will be the cor­rect one.”

It should be Texas A&M ath-

letic direc­tor Scott Wood­ward’s call.

And then his sec­ond call should be to Bob Stoops, then Jimbo Fisher, and then Chris Petersen at Wash­ing­ton, Wood­ward’s pre­vi­ous em­ployer. Make all three of those turn you down. If all three do, knock on Mike Gundy’s or Justin Fuente’s or Scott Frost’s door.

What is ob­vi­ous is that Sum­lin never re­ally has been able to es­tab­lish a clear iden­tity. He rode the tal­ents of Johnny Manziel and an NFL-qual­ity of­fen­sive line to in­stant suc­cess, which in­cluded a stun­ning up­set of Alabama, but Sum­lin has never re­ally been able to sus­tain that mo­men­tum or pro­duce more of­fen­sive gold de­spite solid re­cruit­ing and play­ers like Myles Gar­rett and Mike Evans.

The de­fense has vastly im­proved, but the of­fense too of­ten sput­ters. Run­ning off five-star quar­ter­backs didn’t help any. Nor does Sum­lin’s prickly per­son­al­ity.

To his credit, he’s han­dling the mi­cro-in­spec­tion very well. There was no surli­ness, no smug­ness in Satur­day’s press con­fer­ence.

Al­though when I asked how much the con­stant spec­u­la­tion about his fu­ture weighed on him and af­fected his coach­ing and his team’s per­for­mance, he said brusquely, “No.”

It’s time for A&M to say no, too. No more.

Af­ter al­most six very frus­trat­ing sea­sons, but also some highs like bowl vic­to­ries over Ok­la­homa and West Vir­ginia, the fit’s not work­ing. Not any longer. The prob­lem is, for ev­ery one of those big up­lift­ing mo­ments, there are big­ger let­downs like the ex­cru­ci­at­ing, come-from-way-ahead loss to UCLA and the re­cent home loss to an av­er­age Mis­sis­sippi State team. This is what A&M has be­come, and that can’t be ac­cept­able.

In three-plus sea­sons, A&M is 2-8 in the month of Novem­ber. And you thought Hal­loween and Oc­to­ber were scary.

“We try not to look at the over­all pic­ture,” Ag­gie run­ning back Trayveon Wil­liams said. “It’s frus­trat­ing.”

Even Wood­ward, A&M’s ath­letic direc­tor of al­most two years, is on record as say­ing Sum­lin’s bro­ken record of 8-5 sea­sons aren’t ac­cept­able and not good enough to save his job. Hard to put that back in the box.

With A&M now sit­ting at 5-4 with a gimme next week against New Mex­ico but tougher ones at Ole Miss and LSU to close out the reg­u­lar sea­son, only wins in those three games and a bowl game would as­sure im­prove­ment. And should Sum­lin rally and win out, A&M would prob­a­bly have to not only keep Sum­lin but give him an ex­ten­sion past his two years re­main­ing on his con­tract (but with­out a higher buy­out).

The bright prom­ise of ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive foot­ball un­der a ris­ing star that was Sum­lin has evap­o­rated into a swirl of ros­ter dys­func­tion and dis­as­trous fin­ishes. On Satur­day, for in­stance, de­spite con­trol­ling the ac­tion al­most the en­tire first half, a 53-yard bomb by Auburn’s Jar­rett Stid­ham and a blocked punt that was re­cov­ered in the end zone ir­re­versibly al­tered the game. “That was a game changer,” Sum­lin said.

Sum­lin’s a good coach. He’s a win shy of be­com­ing one of only four Ag­gie head coaches to win 50 games, but he’s had a heck­uva time try­ing to ob­tain that 50th, what with backto-back losses to Auburn and MSU and three de­feats in the last four games.

“We’ve been up and down this year,” Sum­lin said. “We’ve shown some good things, and we’ve shown some not-so-good things.”

Now he needs to be shown the door.

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