Texas A&M is used to getting what it wants. That doesn’t mean the Aggies succeed with what they wants. Prime example: Jimbo Fisher.
Fisher was fired Sunday near the end of Year 6 at Texas A&M. One might think that will cause the university to reset how it does football business. In the end, TAMU will end up having thrown nine figures at the Fisher regime. That includes a guaranteed contract (extended a couple of years ago), assistants’ salaries and what it will cost to change staffs. It will be paying Fisher’s $77 million buyout through 2031.
Depending on the buyout of the new coach, this process should easily surpass $100 million. The new guy won’t be a bargain, either, because of Texas A&M’s desperation to remain relevant in a conference where Georgia is seeking a third straight national championship, Alabama is still competing for titles, Jayden Daniels has become the Heisman Trophy frontrunner at LSU and Missouri is knocking on the door of a New Year’s Six bowl.
Monday can’t buy happiness, especially at Texas A&M. Big picture: Maybe this is the end of the 10-year guaranteed contract in college football. At Texas A&M? Good luck with that. If the right guy says yes, the Aggies will go eight figures again, especially with Texas about to join the SEC.
Who’s next? Historically, Texas A&M will hire someone it can “control.” That rules out a candidate like Deion Sanders, a local hero (with the Cowboys) who resides in Texas and would have been a hot name a couple of months ago. But a 1-6 downturn (so far) at Colorado dims Coach Prime’s star.
Texas A&M coaching candidates
Mike Elko, Duke coach: No. 1 with a bullet on this list. Elko made his reputation as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. He made Duke competitive right away going 15-8 in two seasons. Even without injured starting quarterback Riley Leonard, who has been nursing an ankle sprain since Week 5, the Blue Devils have been competitive. There weren’t any jobs available that were good enough for Elko … until Sunday. He will be the clear-cut top candidate unless one of the following two names also show signs of legitimate interest.
Dan Lanning, Oregon coach: Texas A&M has to make a call, but because of the timing, it would likely be difficult to pry Lanning away from the Ducks. TAMU is a better job than Oregon, but there are complicating factors. This is only Year 2 for Lanning at Oregon. There has to be a sense of loyalty with the Ducks on a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff run. Lanning likely doesn’t want anything complicating that process. Also, he’s still young in the game at age 37. Lanning can be successful for a long time at Oregon and slide in as Alabama’s next coach at some point.
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss coach: We told you Texas A&M wants someone it can control to a degree. Nobody controls Coach Kiff. The Aggies would be trading in for a coach with bombastic tweets, raw comments, a .657 winning percentage and three national championship rings (as an assistant). The question: Would Kiffin be able to break through to the next level with all of Texas A&M’s resources? Wasn’t that was hiring Jimbo was about?
Mike Norvell, Florida State coach: Texas A&M went after one coach who turned around FSU, why not two? Norvell seems to be in the same class as Lanning. There’s too much to play for this season, and would TAMU potentially be willing to wait until Jan. 9 to make the hire should Norvell lead his team to the CFP National Championship? (Norvell is a native of Irving, Texas, less than 200 miles from College Station.)
Kalen DeBoer, Washington coach: You have to wonder where Washington is headed after Michael Penix Jr. leaves. It will be harder for DeBoer whether he’s in the new Big Ten (with the Huskies) or the SEC (with the Aggies). But he is an offensive wizard who is 21-2 as Washington’s coach, and Texas A&M would obviously be willing to pay.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA coach: You can bet Traylor would sign up in a heartbeat, and he’d be a hell of a hire. As a long-time high school coach in Texas, Traylor is wired to the top coaches and talent in the state. He was pursued by Power Five schools after last season but elected to stay with the Roadrunners. Traylor has sort of hit his head on the ceiling in his current position. Look for him to make a big push to become the Aggies next coach. At UTSA, Traylor is 36-13 with two Conference USA championships.
Kliff Kingsbury, USC senior analyst: Kingsbury has enough juice left to his name that he could be a fallback candidate. He coached Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech (35-40 with the Red Raiders) and was Johnny Football’s offensive coordinator during his Heisman season (2012). Kingsbury has “fallen up” a bit in his career. In four seasons with the NFL‘s Arizona Cardinals, he only went to the playoffs once. As a head coach, he is 14 games below .500.
Glen Schumann, Georgia co-defensive coordinator: It’s hard to believe, at age 33, Schumann already has 14 years experience in the SEC as a student assistant, graduate assistant and assistant coach in various stints at Alabama and Georgia. Along with Will Muschamp, he is currently running the Georgia defense and has been a part of six national championships. Is he ready to run an SEC program?