Thursday, December 29, 2011

Initial Reaction to 2012 SEC Schedule


Yesterday the Southeastern Conference released the official football schedule for 2012. At first glance, it looks like A&M have their work cut out for them (what’s new?)… but we can’t help getting fired up about it. The Aggies' inaugural swim through the finest conference in America includes home games against powerhouse LSU and road games at both Mississippi schools as well as both Alabama schools. The complete schedule (so far) is as follows:

September 1 – MCNEESE STATE
September 8 – FLORIDA
September 15 – SMU
September 22 – TBA
September 29 – vs. ARKANSAS
October 6 – @ OLE MISS
October 13 – TBA
October 20 – LSU
October 27 – @ AUBURN
November 3 – @ MISSISSIPPI STATE
November 10 – @ ALABAMA
November 17 – TBA
November 24 – MISSOURI

Quick hits:

- One noteworthy item is the SEC plays one less conference game than the Big 12 did this past season. Instead of having three nonconference games, the Aggies will have four in 2012. Having three open dates provides flexibility that should give them a chance to further prepare for conference play or catch their breath from the SEC gauntlet. It will be interesting to see how the schedule fills out.

- The early-season matchup with Florida at Kyle Field should be a dandy. Both teams will be fresh off surprisingly mediocre seasons in 2011 and will no doubt look to start strong in the SEC.

- The Arkansas game’s location is TBD, hence the “vs.” designation. Here’s to hoping they play in College Station. Sacrificing a true home game every other year is hard to justify in the SEC West, regardless of how exciting Cowboys Stadium may be.

- Keeping Oct. 13 open for a bye week would be a logical move, as the following week brings us…

- The one home game that will get the most attention (and deservedly so) is the Oct. 20 matchup with the LSU Tigers. Rekindling that rivalry will be a treat for those that witnessed the games a couple decades ago. I’m sure many recruits from Houston and East Texas have this weekend circled on their calendars.

- As if LSU is some kind of cupcake, it’s tough sledding from there. The Aggies hit the road for three straight weeks with trips to Auburn, Starkville, and Tuscaloosa. YIKES.

- And, as expected, no UT game at Thanksgiving. A&M’s permanent “rivalry” with a school from the SEC East is Missouri, so get used to the annual matchup with the Tigers at the end of the season. For the third straight year, Mizzou travels to Kyle Field, which clearly doesn’t intimidate the Tigers too much as they have won the past two meetings.

We’ll have more on this later on, with in-depth looks at each game individually. For now, chew on this and get excited. S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aggie Wish List

In the spirit of Christmas, here is an Aggie Wish List full of metaphors, musings, quirky ideas, and true-to-form “wishes”.


Oil change from Meineke Car Services (and a bowl win) – Let’s be real, none of us want to be at a Meineke Car Service Center, and none of us want to be at the Meineke Care Care Bowl. But we changed head coaches; so let’s change our bowl fortunes. We practically have a home game in our backyard metropolis of Houston. Get this baby running smoothly and hand it to a very good, but very beatable Northwestern team. 


Gallon of milk for Christine Michael – It hurts me to see this stuff happen to C-Mike. From every source I have seen, he seems to be a stand-up guy and a team player. Let’s get this kid some calcium, get him on the field and fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.


Muzzle – It is about time our “higher-ups” keep their mouth shut and let the professionals do their job. Let the coach lead. Let the athletic director hire. Everybody has gifts, and the “higher-ups” that I am referring to have the gift of a fat wallet. Open it up when asked, don’t speculate or provide opinions, and be glad you can assist your fine university.


Truck full of Gorilla Glue – It is going to take some serious adhesive to keep our team together during the upcoming pigskin hurricane season that will ensue next fall – a new coach, a new conference, a new era. Our team is going to need to stick together and practice what they preach in the unity department. We are going to need all eleven men glued together in order to find any success at all.


The most advanced knee brace on the market – One known strength for next year’s team? Our offensive line! What is an offensive lineman’s best friend? That massive body that he controls. What supports that immovable mass? His knees. Knees can be delicate. Protect and support them. That is where those knee braces come in. Our offensive linemen need to anchor our running game and protect our future (unproven) quarterback.


Sponsorship/support for the “AggSwagg” movement – The AggSwagg movement was started by future Aggie Matt Davis as a means to promote Texas A&M to other recruits and elevate excitement/anticipation levels for the recruits already on-board. I love this! Only good things will come out of inspired, driven football players. Let’s get these kids some t-shirts, maybe a PR team; maybe even turn it into student-athlete organization. I am all about the positive energy.


SEC flashcards – War Eagle? Tiger Bait? Crimson Tide? Playing between the hedges? Some of our diehard fans have a vague idea what these things are, but the majority of our fan base will spend half of each game making up reasons why the state of Alabama has a total of four mascots for two schools and wondering if a Tennessee Volunteer is a knock-off of our 12th Man. Also, make sure to include a dress code for The Grove and a map of all swamps in SEC country (are swamp kitties from The Swamp?). 


Female cheerleaders - Blasphemous, you say? Bring it on! It is the 21st century, Aggies. We opened our fine university to women five decades ago – why we didn’t immediately start a cheerleading squad then is mystifying. I realize that the Yell Leaders are a tradition (one of the more hallowed, in fact) but introducing a female cheerleading squad would do nothing to diminish what the Yell Leaders mean to Texas A&M. I don’t care if the cheerleaders are sequestered to the corner of the stadium without megaphones or a single second spent on the video board. There are too many good-looking, talented girls at our school to deny them the chance to represent A&M as cheerleaders.


Under Armour sponsorship – My personal opinion: I have never been impressed by Adidas. My cohort Ben Berryman desires to be reunited with Nike. I wouldn’t be opposed to such things, but I would rather go with the innovative, new kid on the block… Under Armour. They revolutionized the sweat-wicking technology; they manufacture fresh, new products, and continue to push the envelope with insane jerseys. I want to be a part of that. It is all about infusing new, optimistic energy in Aggieland. And maybe some crazy jerseys will take attention away from the potential whippings on the field.


While we’re at it, let’s get Coke back on campus - When A&M originally handed the soda rights to Pepsi, you would have thought the world was going to end. Without their beloved Diet Coke and Coke Zero, sorority girls were thinking of transferring. I personally don’t care about Pepsi or Coke since I drink Dr. Pepper, but make the switch for our better halves, A&M. The Aggie Rundown’s female acquaintances dearly miss their calorie-free Coke products.


Merry Christmas to all of our readers! Thank you all for your support. BTHO Northwestern!

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Bowl Season!


Has it really come to this, NCAA? Gone are the days of bowl games actually meaning something. Six wins, even with a losing record (cough, UCLA, cough) are apparently enough to justify tarnishing a tradition that used to be one of the delights in sports. What was so wrong about a small number of bowl games? Do we really need 35 of them?

The 2011 bowl season kicked off on Saturday with a few genuinely exciting games. Last-second field goals and exciting finishes were the theme of the weekend. Normally, that is exactly what I want out of a college football Saturday.

What I don’t want is Temple playing Wyoming in the Gildan’s New Mexico Bowl. In case you missed it, that was an actual bowl game that actually happened last weekend. I’m not kidding. THE NEW MEXICO BOWL. The only good thing about the state of New Mexico is it gets me one state closer to the superior ski slopes of Colorado. Anyone that has watched an episode of Breaking Bad realizes how depressing New Mexico really is. I have nothing against the nice people of New Mexico, but your state does not deserve a college football bowl game. You probably had absolutely nothing to do with the New Mexico Bowl, but I have decided to use your bowl game to highlight what has gone wrong with the bowl system.

Thirteen bowl games have been added since 2001. Thirteen. When you look at who is behind these additions, you will see once famous company behind most of them… the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, or ESPN. The need for programming has driven the Worldwide Leader to throw enormously underwhelming matchups in our face and ruin the sanctity of the bowl season. Instead of being content with the NBA, NFL, or NHL right now, ESPN feels that we need to spend our Tuesday night watching the likes of Florida International and Marshall in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Um, no thanks. Judging by the size of the crowd at Tropicana Field that I saw on SportsCenter that night, many others shared that feeling.

One has to wonder why these schools agree to play in some of these ultimately meaningless games. If celebrating a mediocre season in a mediocre conference is why the schools want to participate in these pitiful bowls, surely some kind of on-campus parade would suffice. It would undoubtedly be cheaper for the schools.

As fans of Texas A&M, we would probably agree that no one is excited about playing Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston. After such a disappointing season, the only real benefit I see in playing this game is the extra practice time it affords our young players. This game doesn’t push my needle. At all.

This is where I begin to sound like an old man. The current bowl system, which awards a postseason game to more than half of the teams in the top division of college football, is rewarding mediocrity. Everyone gets a trophy! Your team beat up on non-conference creampuff teams, and then won 3 out of 9 conference games? Congratulations! You get to go to Shreveport, Louisiana and celebrate your season! Give me a break. Bowls should be for good teams. As in, ranked teams.

Don’t get me wrong – the bowl system is screwed up, and may not be long for this world. The clamoring for a playoff system is getting louder every day (look out BCS, Congress is coming for you!). But all I ask for is a simple trimming of the fat. No one enjoys these new bowls played by teams no one cares about in front of a few thousand fans. The system of determining the national champion may be flawed, but so too is ESPN’s presence in the bowl system. If we are going to introduce a “plus one” format for the national championship game, then let’s also rid ourselves of these spare bowl games. No more Gildan’s New Mexico Bowl, no more R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, no more Meineke Car Care Bowl. The college football bowl season used to be special – is it too much to ask to keep it that way?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thoughts Too Short and Scattered for Anything Other than an E-mail Thread


Every so often, Scott will attempt to channel his inner Bill Simmons and begin an email conversation with me. Most of the topics we cover in this email thread couldn’t be fully developed into a blog post, so we wrapped it all together and now deliver it to you as an early Christmas gift. (Note: some of these were written before Kevin Sumlin was hired.)

Scott: I am so thankful for the technology we constantly have at our fingertips.  What I am not thankful for? The entire Texas A&M football program.  I was thoroughly excited/hopeful when I found out we would be obtaining a new football coach.  A couple weeks later... where are we? In the exact same standstill.  For goodness sakes, hire somebody.  Recruits are wavering, fans are panicked.  This is almost worse than the season itself (extreme dramatization).  What are we waiting for?  Back up the money truck to an up-and-coming coach who wants to be here, and boom, we will have one.  Am I crazy for being frustrated/disgusted?

Ben: Anyone that wears Reebok zig zags (like you) is at least a little crazy. But as for being frustrated or disgusted with how this hiring process has shaken out, you are very, very normal. No one is going to fault you for being an anxious Aggie. We all are. Even after the news came down yesterday that Kevin Sumlin would be the new head coach, my panic meter is a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. This will not be an easy job for Sumlin. The pressure is on. I'm sure we will get to that later.

In semi-related news, what are your thoughts on RG3 winning the Heisman? Who would have thought that Baylor would get a Heisman Trophy?

Scott:  How convenient, A&M finally got their act together and hired a coach, right in the middle of our email thread.  I honestly wonder how Sumlin feels about the entire process.  It began with him being the clear frontrunner, then slowly morphed into a chaotic rumor mill.  My concern is that if A&M wanted Sumlin all along (since it is clear Sumlin wanted to be at A&M) why didn't they just hire him immediately, avoid the rumors, and get back out on the recruiting trail.  This leads me to believe we had some hesitancy and potentially viewed other coaches as the better fit.  Meaning we likely didn't get number one on our list. Enough negativity though, now we have a coach so lets move forward.  Bring on that positive energy, Sumlin!

I am not pleased with RG III winning the Heisman.  I don't like anything about Baylor, and I don't wish any success upon them.  It is important to me that they consciously understand that they are always below us on the national totem pole.  And I don't like all chatter about RG III being the greatest, most wholesome man in all of the land.  I think he is the king of the humble brag... and that doesn't make you awesome.  

Ben, please tell me something to feel good about in regards to college football... anything... 

Ben: A&M is moving to the SEC!!!!!!!!!!! That's good, right?

Baylor is the definition of spare. How cute of the Baylor fans to publicly show their affection for RG3 on twitter and Facebook, yet they never saw him play in person. They might sell 50% of their tickets, week in and week out. I am writing a letter to the Downtown Athletic Club and asking them to ban all future candidates that come from schools that can't fill their own stadium. 

My brain is telling me to be cautious on Sumlin, but my heart is telling me to get fired up. I don't know how to feel either way. All I know is that he better succeed. We need it.

Scott: I was all aboard the Sumlin train at the beginning of the torturous hiring process, but after the rumor mill got ahold of me, I fell for the dreams of Chris Peterson, and the intrigue of Fedora.  But now we have our man, might as well start our typical Aggie optimism – it’s the only way to get through those dark, cold nights.

Here is a bold statement for you.  I do not like nor care about the Heisman.  It isn't always the best football player in the country... it is instead a stat-driven race to the best quarterback or running back on a semi-meaningful team (used to think it was a meaningful team, until a Baylor Bear won it).  The only candidate that would have gained my attention was the Honey Badger.  Now he was a game changer.  Can A&M trade for the Honey Badger? I want to be in his fan club! The Honey Badger takes what he wants!!!!!

Ben: Here is a bold statement... The Honey Badger isn't that great. Boom. I think he is a good player that is made much, much better by a dominant front seven and lockdown corners. Because of the guys around him he can literally roam the field with no abandon. But I do love the nickname and watching him play.

If you had the choice of any of the Heisman finalists to build a college team around, who would it be? 

Scott:  Eh, when you phrase it like that you definitely have to choose a quarterback. He is the most important guy on the field.  Therefore I go with Andrew Luck.  Maybe I am just looking for a well-publicized defensive award for people like the Honey Badger. Or why not give some dominant offensive lineman their rightful recognition. I know there are awards out there for those guys, but it isn't the same.  

On this topic I have a great question for you, dig into your depth chart (and your crystal ball) and tell me who will be the next Aggie to win a national award? Can be a kicker, interior lineman, receiver, anything.

Ben: Honestly, I think it would have to be one of our offensive linemen. I am going to say Luke Joeckel. He was first team All-Big 12 this year, and is a mammoth. 

What game are you looking forward to the most for next year?

Scott:  Whoa, slow down with the questions! I did not get to express my opinion for future Aggie award winner.  Choosing Joeckel was a great pick, but I am going to roll with a long shot and then a super long shot.  Sean Porter for the Butkus Trophy next year... I mean somebody has to play defense and accumulate stats for us, and he played great this year.  And my super long shot is Bralon Addison for the Biletnikoff, I hear he is an electric athlete and I am hoping he can become a more consistent version of Jeff Fuller in the extended future. 

As far as games next year... That's easy! Hello Ole Miss! Hello win column! 

Ben:  Speaking of Ole Miss, I might be most excited about visiting Oxford. Great little town. It feels like time hasn’t moved in that town for half a century.

As far as the games go, I gotta say LSU. Baton Rouge is close enough for fans of both teams to travel, and it will renew an old rivalry. (I am choosing to disregard the fact that we will lose by 35 points.)

Scott: I agree with the LSU game. I am hoping to develop a meaningful rivalry with them solely based on proximity, despite the early lumps and bruises we will undoubtedly take. On the topic of opponents and rivalries… what are your thoughts on Arkansas? Will that be our most notable rivalry? Would you like to keep the game at Jerry World?

You know what we have failed to discuss recently (and rightfully so, since this season isn't even over yet)? Who in the world is going to be our quarterback next year.  That is quite the massive elephant in the room right now.  We obviously can't think the job is Jameil Showers' to lose.  What about Matt Davis?  Or the "gamer" Johny Manziel?  This could be an issue.

Ben: The Arkansas game at Jerry World is one of my favorite weekends of the year. The chance to drink $9 Miller Lites is truly special. All kidding aside, I do love playing Arkansas in Dallas. Recruits have to like the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium once a year. Seeing how superior Aggies are to Razorbacks as humans in general is also one of my highlights from that weekend. They wear hog heads. C’mon, man!

QB next year… Well, if we go on past trends, it has to be one of our wide receivers right? First Jerrod, then Tannehill, next year – Ryan Swope, quarterback? 2012 will be interesting, my friend. I can’t wait.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Count Me Out for the Pity Party

Are we done with the Mike Sherman pity party yet? If you think so, then ignore this rant. And yes, this is a rant. I was incredibly annoyed by the amount of whining following the firing of Mike Sherman, and it has taken me a matter of weeks to fully digest the information and form an opinion (albeit still a harsh one).


I would like to start by praising Sherman for who he is and what he did for our University. By all accounts he is a phenomenal person who truly cared about our University and molding his players into better men. He was a man of integrity who ran our program with humility and sensibility. He rejuvenated our talent base with multiple fantastic recruiting hauls and installed a productive spread offense. I don’t believe anyone who ever crossed paths with the man had a single negative comment to report.


But you know what Sherman didn’t do? Win football games. Okay, he did win a few important ones (I will never forget the Nebraska win last year at Kyle Field), but he choked when it mattered most – this year. We entered 2011 as a top-10 team and a Big 12 title contender. Where did we end up? In the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Plain and simple, that is a failure of a season.


When you are expected to win football games and you don’t… there are consequences. When expectations are sky-high, consequences are also sky-high. We had an extremely talented team, yet threw away leads like it was our job. Somebody has to take the blame. And more often than not the blame SHOULD fall on the man cashing the million dollar paychecks. With money like that on the line, responsibility is to be assumed. Was it unfortunate that Sherman’s firing was leaked to the media before he even heard the news? Absolutely! He deserved to leave in a respectable fashion. But regardless, he deserved to leave. Sherman had a job, and he didn’t perform. I am sure he is regretful, but understands why it ended this way. Let’s not waste all of our tears and moans over a man who gets fired and is still owed anywhere between 5-8 MILLION DOLLARS.


This post is in no way meant to attack Sherman’s character. But the man was brought to Texas A&M to win football games. That is what you hire a head coach to do. Win football games. There are obviously a large amount of college football coaches who win football games in a corrupt fashion – I am not asking for that. I do not want a corrupt program at the cost of winning football games. What I am saying is that our goal should not be to find the nicest man possible and give him what could be the most important job at our University. Our goal should be to hire a man who respects the game, the university, and the rules AND can win the big one.


I feel as if many Aggie fans are stuck in a delusional world where they think that Texas A&M is a premiere (meaning top 15-20) national program. It is not. Our success in the 80’s and 90’s has run its course. College football moves in cycles and ours is over. UT won a national championship and established itself as a national power. That is exactly why they can ride these years of mediocrity and still get the national acclaim that they do. If they don’t turn it around in the next couple of years, they will feel the effects. And the Longhorn Network will become a timeless joke that we can all tell our kids about (I personally think it will be, regardless of the Longhorns’ success). It doesn’t matter that the Texas A&M Aggies have been better than the Longhorns for the past 2 years (and yes, regardless of the scoreboard, if your starting quarterbacks are David Ash and Case McCoy, the Aggies are the better team), the rest of the nation doesn’t care yet. It takes time to prove yourself on the football field. We took a huge step last year; then took five massive steps back this year. That situation cannot happen when you are swimming in a sea of mediocrity. We don’t have time for such things. And that ultimately means Sherman had to go.


In the midst of this delusional mindset, Aggies think that every losing season is an unfortunate blip on the radar screen. We coddle ourselves with the comforting notion of, “oh, but our University is full of integrity and everything else that is good and wholesome, our coach is a great man who understands our University.” Maybe it is, but the rest of the world doesn’t care about hearing that. 90% of the schools in America are going to make that very same claim.


We absolutely have the resources, the support, and the potential to be in the national elite. That is why when catastrophes like this season occur things need to change. They need to change from the top down. And if that means we have to fire our “coach of integrity,” then so be it. Move on, wish Sherman the best, and rally behind our next coaching project. Mike Sherman has 5-8 million reasons why he doesn’t need a pity party.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"The Front Porch of Texas A&M”

This is to all of you people who think college football doesn’t really matter at the end of the day, a mere hyperbole of hype by the media. This is to all those people (and the ladies) who wonder why fans so passionately mourn the loss of a silly game with a funny shaped ball. Wake up people! If you are discussing the development of our institution of higher education (Texas A&M) and their perceived reputation across our fine American soil, then by golly, you need to start discussing Aggie football.


Trust me. I want Texas A&M to be the most highly sought after, most successful, most academically prestigious school in the nation. I want to be the best, to feel like the best, and for others to think we are the best. So what is the quickest way to attain such stature? Simple. Win football games.


Quick aside: Winning football games has not made the likes of Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, etc. academic frontrunners. But, it has given them immeasurable national exposure. Texas A&M is currently dedicated to becoming a top 20 public school by the year 2020 (a high, yet attainable goal), and it has the resources and the innovative academic minds to get there. This is merely a way to expedite the process through a means that I understand far better than the methodology behind the US News and World Report collegiate rankings.


In my somewhat simplistic male world the “being the best” desire is easily attained and explained by winning football games. My team wins, it makes me feel good. I talk to friends (who know what my team achieved) from other schools and I let them know of my good feelings. My team beats another team located within a reasonable geographic distance, I now own all that land from my city to theirs (until the following year’s rematch). My football team wins, other people have very little merit to argue that we (me and my team) are awesome. Those are all simple “man-thoughts” in regards to football. Let’s move beyond that and hopefully break the ice with the rest of you.


Media has a vast impact on our country (obvious). The news often speaks of hard-times, scandal, and misfortune, and don’t get me wrong, attention must be brought to all of those things, but I am focusing on a different light. I am focusing on media and its effect on sports, specifically college football.


Sports bring hope, excitement, and despair yet without the real-life ramifications or consequences of illness, natural disasters, stock market crashes, etc. If you lose a sports game nobody dies (except in Colombia), and nobody loses their job (except for million dollar coaches and athletes, whom of which do not need our sympathy, go buy sympathy in the form of a jet-ski).


Here is my overall outline in a syllogistic fashion.


1. Texas A&M wins football games


2. The local and national media talk about A&M more (more time on the tube)


3. The more A&M is on TV, the more people here about A&M (people watch lots of TV, I hear)


4. The more people hear about A&M (in a positive fashion), the more people will consider attending A&M or encourage others to attend A&M


5. The more people that consider attending A&M means more people will actually apply & attend


6. The more people that apply, means the more selective A&M can be in finding the best students


7. The better students that attend A&M will play a large role in attracting the best professors


8. The best professors (and the better students) will play a large role in elevating our national academic rankings


9. And coming full circle, winning football games promotes school pride, school pride motivates individuals to be dedicated (with their time and their finances) from the day they step foot on campus until the day they have Gig Em on their tombstone (a morbid, but great fundraiser).


To further elaborate on my hypothetical (yet very rational) chain of events, winning is all about national exposure. Don’t get me wrong, we have national exposure, but not enough especially in relation to our friends in Austin. They had Vince Young, we had Vince Young Light (Jerrod), wait I don’t want to start these comparisons, Vince Young Light is far too lofty of a compliment anyways, something more to the effect of an ounce of flat Coke Zero (Jerrod) to an entire bottle of Cherry Coke (Vince). Ok, done with that.


Sports are the main avenue in which the normal person hears about a university. Win games, win championships, gain notoriety. So let’s say we start winning games… the rest is gravy for our beloved University. Our traditions, our fan base, our resources… they all speak for themselves. Put A&M in the BCS hunt and you ignite a fan base that man for man is the best in the nation. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves and there is no greater place to do that than Texas A&M. It bleeds all-for-one and one-for-all. It is a place where the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts (although the parts are great individually).


The rest of the syllogistic diagram speaks for itself. More people apply, better people attend. Better people precedes better faculty, better faculty precedes a better university.


It starts on the field, and it ultimately ends in the heart and mind of all those who digested it via various media outlets. Life itself is not all about winning and losing. But football is! And that, my friends, is how you advance your University in the most efficient way possible.


Everyone always looks at the front porch before they enter the house.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Kevin Sumlin Hire



Say it with me now: Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. While you read this, keep saying it to yourself. If you are anything like me, you need to be talked into this one.

The Aggies formally introduced Kevin Sumlin as the 28th football coach in Texas A&M history on Monday with a press conference at the Bright Complex. While impressed by what Sumlin had to say today, I still need a little prodding to be fully on board with his hiring.

It has been a wild ride for supporters of the maroon and white ever since Mike Sherman was fired almost two weeks ago. Instead of boring you with the details of the coaching search, I will simply recall the names that were rumored to be connected to the Aggies. Kevin Sumlin. Larry Fedora. Kirby Smart. Troy Calhoun. Chip Kelly. Chris Petersen. Mark Richt. That is a pretty sexy list, right? I am not going to beat around the bush – Kevin Sumlin is not in the same class as half of the guys in that list. At least not yet, hopefully. I am not going to speculate on why it took A&M so long to officially hire Sumlin, but it does make me wonder if he was indeed the top choice.

From speaking with fellow Aggies, I know that opinions on Kevin Sumlin range anywhere from somewhat negative to cautiously optimistic. I haven’t talked to two people that feel the same way about him. That is exactly what makes this hire so interesting to me – no one really knows how to feel about it. The general feeling I get is there are too many uncertainties involved with this hire to have a solid sentiment about it, one way or the other.

Let’s take a gander at the various arguments being thrown out there for and against Kevin Sumlin before reaching a verdict:

PROS

Experience at Texas A&M – We know this is obviously a huge factor in Sumlin’s favor. After being an assistant coach here about ten years ago, Sumlin understands what our school is about. Aggies everywhere saw how Franchione successfully alienated himself in such a short amount of time. Say what you want about Sherman, but his love for Texas A&M was apparent during the entirety of his tenure. Understanding Aggieland may not help Sumlin win games, but it does help his credibility with the 12th Man.

Coached under R.C. Slocum and Bob Stoops – I am personally hoping Sumlin learned the importance of a passionate, aggressive attitude from Stoops. I think we can all agree that if Sumlin is able to duplicate Slocum’s run at A&M or Stoops’ success at OU, we will be quite happy. The key word in that sentence is “if”. It is a big one.

Knows Texas and recruits well – This can’t be overvalued. With a top-10 recruiting class on its way next fall, Sumlin has his work cut out for him. Signing day is less than three months away. Keeping the class intact (and possibly adding to it) would be a huge boost to the program as it heads into the SEC next fall.

CONS

Lacks big-time experience as head coach – Every head coach has to start somewhere, right? Going from Houston to College Station is a large jump. Sumlin will no doubt feel the pressure of running an SEC program, but I am not buying this one. Big-time programs don’t typically hire a proven commodity (once you have made it at a big school, you rarely leave – unless your name is Nick Saban or Urban Meyer).

Too offensive-minded – This argument carries some weight with me. I would probably be more comfortable if we were hiring a coach with a defensive pedigree. If you look at some of the recently successful head coaches in the SEC though, they come from offensive backgrounds: Les Miles (LSU), Mark Richt (Georgia), Steve Spurrier (South Carolina), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas), and Urban Meyer (formerly at Florida). The key will be Sumlin’s staff. Hiring a good defensive coordinator is crucial.

Case Keenum – Many people want to attribute Houston’s recent success to the play of their quarterback. I understand why this is used against Sumlin. He didn’t recruit quarterback Case Keenum to Houston (Art Briles did) and went 5-7 last season with Keenum injured. I look at it this way though – was Sumlin supposed to not play Keenum since he didn’t recruit him? And how good would any football team be with their starting quarterback out for the year? Heck, the Aggies went 6-6 this year without an injury to their starting quarterback.

VERDICT

I have no other choice; I have to support this. After the mess that was this football season and the firing/hiring circus that ensued, I am at least thankful that Texas A&M has a head coach that can begin to pick up the pieces. We can all feel one way or another about Kevin Sumlin, but the bottom line is we need to circle the wagons and unite around the program. Our collective hearts may not have skipped a beat when we heard Sumlin was hired, and we may still be skeptical, but that is okay. What’s important is believing we will someday look back on our skepticism and laugh. At the very least, let’s just hope we don’t end up having to talk ourselves into another new head coach four years from now. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Unnecessary Crossroads



Special contributor Andrew Wiley joins the Aggie Rundown for an honest look at the last two weeks of activity in the Texas A&M football program. The opinions in this post are his and his alone (but we sure do appreciate them). For a chance to contribute your opinions, contact us.

Imagine yourself at one of life’s major crossroads, with two main choices in front of you: continue on a once promising, and possibly still rewarding path or go along another path with slightly more upside, but potentially much larger of a pitfall. You are quite certain the terrain of the first path, with the latter being largely unknown, and potentially disastrous. Could you in good faith go forth on the second path?

If you say yes, I would like to introduce you to Texas A&M University, a place where the second path gets taken much more often than it should. When Bill Byrne had his legs undercut two weeks ago by our current Board of Regents (or as I like to refer to them, “Rick Perry’s Puppets”), our football team was sent into a state of purgatory. We didn’t have a viable replacement lined up, ala Washington State (with Mike Leach), and we didn’t have a legitimate hiring process to fall back on.  Donors wanted current hotshot Kevin Sumlin from the University of Houston, whether the Athletic Director deemed Sumlin the best candidate or not. While I do think Byrne was ultimately given carte blanche to interview whoever he saw fit, it was a position I don’t think he wanted to be in. He liked Mike Sherman; he respected his character, and appreciated what he was attempting to build here.  As I was told this week by someone who has been involved with football professionally for over three decades, “he is a good coach, he is a good man, and he was doing it the right way.” That is a remarkable epitaph to leave behind.

Bill Byrne has a hiring record at Texas A&M, outside of football, that cannot be questioned. With hires including Gary Blair, Billy Gillespie and Pat Henry, Byrne has put our athletic department as a whole in a remarkable place. While everyone agrees Fran was a disaster, I think the jury was still out on Sherman. Not to belabor whether he should have been fired, because that is a column in and of itself, but he understood A&M, cared about its success, and was truly vested in “Building Champions” on and off the field. When I watched him tear up as he recounted his final words to the team of “Win the bowl game, but be men of character,” I could not decide which emotion inside of me was greater. I was truly saddened that this great man had been fired, but I think I was more irate in the way it had been handled and the reasons behind it.

We are all in agreement that this past football season was an utter disappointment of the highest order. To lose 5 games by a combined 14 points (all of which you led at some point in the 4th quarter) was incredibly hard to take. But did Sherman deserve to be fired because of it? That is the $5-8.5 million dollar question. I don’t think anyone who follows this program closely can honestly tell you that the program had taken a downward tilt in the last few years. While the record showed losses, we are in an infinitely better position today than we were four years ago. We are recruiting better, we are maximizing and coaching talent better, our facilities are better and still improving, and our fan base support is back to the levels it should have been all along. So if the program is moving in the right direction, the coach loves and understands A&M, and he truly cares about developing kids into players and ultimately men, why fire him? If you have Chip Kelly or Chris Peterson or Gary Patterson in your back pocket, maybe you could convince me. But if you are firing him with the intention of filling the position with a coach who went 5-7 in Conference USA last year, then go try to ruin someone else’s university. I don’t want you around my beloved Texas A&M.

This brings me back to the part of this story that irks me the most. We have people (namely Regents and alumni with too much money and way too much free time) who think that because they can find oil or develop real estate, they are qualified to hire a football coach. I am cognizant of the fact that with a serious donation, some semblance of status at Texas A&M is deserved. But in my mind that should be a better parking spot and quick access to information, not a seat at the interview table. If you have to pass the hat in order to pay the coach’s salary, maybe the donors should get a vote to sign off on the deal, but it should be nothing more than a formality. What worries me even more is that since Dr. Robert Gates left, all visionaries he put in place at A&M have been replaced with “yes men”. The days of grandiose vision to turn Texas A&M into a true world institution have gone the way of the 12th Man Kickoff Team.  If you don’t think Bill Byrne is qualified to find a coach, fire him and find someone you deem worthy. Don’t insult his reputation by trying to do it for him.

So where do we stand as a football program? Some have referred to us as a “top-15 job,” others as a “sleeping giant”. If you are asleep for too long, do you just become a “dead giant”? We will always be relevant because we can fill Kyle Field and have the money to keep facilities up to national standards, but we should be consistently competing for conference and in turn national titles. Instead we have competed for the last decade with Texas Tech, TCU and now Baylor for the title of “Texas’ Best Team, Outside of Austin”, and we haven’t even won that in awhile. UT and Tech are down, TCU will have to adjust to the Big 12, and Baylor now owns a Heisman Trophy. If we are ever going to reassert ourselves in the state of Texas, now is the time. If we can’t compete in Texas, good luck in the SEC.

My hope is that the Aggie family rallies around Kevin Sumlin. It is paramount that we make him feel welcome. We also need to embrace his style and history while helping him learn ours. He may very well be to A&M what Urban Meyer was to Florida. He might also be what Dan Hawkins was to Colorado. US President Calvin Coolidge once said, “the slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve [problems],” and in the quagmire we are currently stuck in, that is all we can do. Press on. I realize that we are in the state of Texas and entering the greatest football conference the world has ever known, and a clean slate might be desired. It wasn’t, however, needed. And until the people employed to make decisions are allowed to properly make those decisions, I fear for the future of football, and all else, at this great university.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Curse of the Aggie Ring: Why do Aggie Quarterbacks Fail as Seniors?

For the better part of my life as a fan of college football, Texas A&M University has suffered from a curse. The Chicago Cubs can’t win the World Series, Sports Illustrated has the well-documented cover jinx, and the Aggies' quarterbacks fall apart as seniors, right about the time they receive their coveted Aggie ring.

Unfortunately, this has become a (quite depressing) trend. Wait a minute. If something happens twice in Aggieland, then it becomes a tradition, right? Let's hope that isn't the case here. I don’t ever want to see something like Reggie McNeal’s crash and burn ever again. But I will say this – there is a curse at Texas A&M, and it seems to have a stranglehold on every starting quarterback for the Aggies.

For a solid ten (TEN!) seasons now, fans of the Texas A&M football program have been incessantly teased by the starting quarterback. You know the drill by now: Texas A&M recruits some hotshot in-state QB, lets him mature for a year or two, then he explodes onto the scene in thrilling fashion, much to the delight of the 12th Man. After getting our hopes up, said quarterback then proceeds to crush us. It started with Reggie McNeal, it continued with Stephen McGee, then Jerrod Johnson, and most recently with Ryan Tannehill. None of the four quarterbacks lived up to their potential at Texas A&M. How is that possible?

Let us begin with young Reginald Parrish McNeal of Lufkin, Texas. McNeal was the total package when he signed with Texas A&M as a quarterback. Have you ever heard of Vince Young? McNeal was widely considered to be Young’s superior when they were being recruited in 2001. That should give you an idea of how great Reggie McNeal was in high school. McNeal burned himself into the hearts and minds of Aggies everywhere on November 9, 2002, when he led the Aggies to an upset of #1 Oklahoma. I still consider that game the biggest Aggie win of my lifetime. His performance against OU made it hard to believe that McNeal was a freshman. The next two years only elevated the hype for McNeal as he awed the 12th Man with athleticism that the program had never seen. After being selected as the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback by the Dallas Morning News as a junior, McNeal was supposed to take the logical next step and become an A&M legend. He was a legitimate preseason contender for the Heisman Trophy. Then came his senior season in 2005. Oh, boy. With (eternally) high hopes for the team, McNeal led the Aggies to a disappointing 5-6 record, missing the last two games with “injuries”. His statistics across the board were less than spectacular (that is an understatement) and an unproven, yet talented, redshirt freshman replaced him for the final two games of the season.

Which brings us to Stephen McGee, every Aggie fan’s personal source of high blood pressure for two-plus long (very, very, very long) seasons. The Burnet native began his career as Reggie McNeal’s replacement in 2005 and became the permanent starter the next season. Stories of McGee choosing Texas A&M over the University of Southern California seemed to inflate his talent level to the casual Aggie fan, as did the constant chatter of his “strong arm” and “quick feet”. What anyone who actually paid attention to the games quickly realized was that McGee had quite the affinity for never challenging the defense and checking down to his running back or tight end ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PLAY. I cannot tell you how many times I was left speechless by McGee’s inability to throw the ball downfield. While I nearly went bald during his tenure, I will say this for McGee – relative to other Aggie quarterbacks, he won. Especially against UT. The guy played with a lot of heart and laid it all out there on the field. But like Reggie McNeal before him, Stephen McGee lost his ability to effectively play quarterback as a senior. McGee’s 2008 season was eventually lost to a shoulder injury, but by that time, fans of Texas A&M had seen the light, and found the chosen one: Jerrod Johnson.

Jerrod Johnson arrived in Aggieland from Humble, Texas as a highly regarded quarterback who could also play a little basketball (that didn’t quite work out, but it is worth mentioning). Johnson redshirted in 2006 and served as McGee’s backup in 2007. Not much was expected of Johnson’s sophomore season in 2008 as McGee had secured the starting role in fall camp. But after a stunning early season loss to Arkansas State (which still makes me want to bang my head on this desk) and a shoulder injury, Coach Mike Sherman named Jerrod Johnson his starting quarterback, much to the delight of Aggies everywhere. Johnson was imposing, talented, and quite honestly, exciting. The offensive creativity Stephen McGee had been bringing to the table had grown stale, and Johnson offered a fresh alternative. Sure, he couldn’t throw a spiral any better than your typical JV quarterback, but Jerrod Johnson had the fan base sold from the moment he stepped onto Kyle Field. After capably filling in for McGee during a humiliating 4-8 finish in 2008, Johnson was named the starting quarterback in 2009. A&M wasn’t supposed to be anything special in ’09, but Johnson led the team to a 6-6 record (it pains me to somehow put a .500 record in a positive light). He also shattered many Texas A&M records, which justifiably raised the bar for 2010. Yet as the two Aggie quarterbacks did before him, Johnson failed to deliver the goods in his senior season. He was replaced by one of his receivers after an embarrassing loss at home to an inferior Missouri team. Ouch.

The receiver who replaced Jerrod Johnson and ultimately ruined six of my Saturdays this fall was Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill hails from Big Spring, Texas, the son of Texas Tech alums. He had originally wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play at Tech (under the awesome Mike Leach), but the Red Raiders would only have him as a receiver, not a quarterback. That is where legendary A&M football coach Mike Sherman stepped in, and offered Tannehill a scholarship to A&M as a quarterback. After impressing the 12th Man with his skills as a receiver, many may have set their expectations a little too high for Tannehill as a quarterback. While he did lead the Aggies to six straight wins in 2010, including thrillers against OU and Nebraska, Tannehill was exposed badly against LSU in the Cotton Bowl. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see why the LSU defense was so successful in shutting Tannehill down: they had an entire month to prepare for the Aggies, and had a decent amount of film to watch on Tannehill. (Having the “Honey Badger” and countless other future NFL stars on their roster probably didn’t hurt.) That game against LSU started an unfortunate trend, as it seemed in 2011 that Tannehill simply couldn’t adjust to the defenses that were being used against him. He definitely had his moments, but he ultimately made too many mistakes with the ball and missed too many receivers (especially in the second half) to give the Aggies a chance to win. Once again, an Aggie quarterback failed to live up to expectations in his senior year.

Why does this continue to happen? Seriously, is the Aggie ring that each quarterback receives from the Association of Former Students made out of kryptonite? No – it is a curse, plain and simple.

You could point to the fact that Reggie McNeal may or may not have had his head on straight at the end of his tenure in College Station. You might say that the limited play calling of Dennis Franchione led Stephen McGee to struggle. For Jerrod Johnson, maybe the pressure was simply too much. I believe Ryan Tannehill ultimately struggled because his coach had him playing wide receiver during mediocre seasons instead of giving him valuable practice time as the backup quarterback.

The bottom line, whatever the reason may be, is that the next starting quarterback at Texas A&M is inheriting a job that has been cursed for a decade now. I sincerely hope (and sometimes pray) that the next guy is the one that finally breaks this curse and leads the Aggies to sustained success in the SEC. We have been teased long enough.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Kick Off

Welcome to our new blog, The Aggie Rundown. This will hopefully serve as a creative, worthwhile site that Aggie sports fans can rely on for an honest (albeit not always rational) opinion. We are not writers; we never paid attention in English class, and we do not have any kind of inside access at Texas A&M University.

We are simply former students that realize the need for a dose of reality among the Aggie faithful. Obviously the disaster that was the 2011 football season served as the spark for this new venture, but this has been something we have wanted to do for a while. After all, the amount of ranting you can do in 140 characters is limited.

Will this be a rather critical, pessimistic (unless it is the offseason – the most optimistic time of the year) blog that might throw out some hot, controversial Aggie opinions? To be honest, yes! But not always. These are merely our thoughts and opinions, not yours, but we hope to provide you with some entertaining, thought-provoking reading. We love Texas A&M – following it, talking about it, and now writing about it. Hopefully you enjoy what we have to offer. So hide your kids, hide your wife, because The Aggie Rundown has arrived. 

Sick of "Playing Not to Lose"

I didn’t grow up rooting for the Texas A&M Aggies; I only adopted the bad habit when I first set foot in College Station some five years ago. Strangely enough, I grew up in Texas following a similarly underachieving program in the frigid cold of East Lansing – Michigan State University. My father attended Michigan State and as I grew older I slowly began to understand his ridiculous fandom, when I did, I became a fan too. To keep the comparison brief, the Michigan State Spartans live in the shadow of the University of Michigan Wolverines to the common fan (just as many perceive the Aggies in comparison to the Longhorns). In all reality, that is fair. Decades of dominance deserve recognition (although the arrogance that comes with it does not). Plain and simple, Michigan State torments their fan base, just like Texas A&M. So while not an Aggie fan for life, I did grow up in a similar alternate fan universe.

The most memorable motif from watching the Spartans with my father was his constant proclamation (which was usually on target) that the Spartans often “played not to lose” as opposed to “playing to win”. To quickly explain, the Spartans would find themselves in the desirable position of winning a high-caliber game, and then poof! The ferocity? Gone! The intensity? Also gone! The lead? Usually gone. They would abandon what got them to that desirable position and adopt a prevent defense and simple-minded offense. I watched Michigan State throw away countless games, which no doubt nearly forced my Dad into cardiac arrest every time. And guess what? This awful theme just so happened to rear its ugly ahead again this year, with the Aggies.

2011 was going to be different. I am usually quite the skeptical fan. I often don’t believe in our quarterback (Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson) or our coach (Dennis Franchione). But this year was different. I was sold on Ryan Tannehill, and I thought Coach Sherman had finally built the team he wanted. Then came the Oklahoma State game, then the Arkansas game, then the rest of this catastrophic season. 2011 hurt the most, because I finally let my guard down and chose to believe.

The Arkansas game burns the most in my mind (specifically the countless punts on 4th and short near midfield). I thought to myself, “Our running attack is averaging nearly 10 YARDS PER CARRY! You don’t have confidence in a Cyrus sweep? What about a Christine iso? What about a Tannehill zone read?” Wow. Sherman lost me in that game. In my opinion (you aren’t forced to agree) he stopped “playing to win” in that game and started “playing not to lose”. And that was when I stopped “believing we were good” and started “hoping we might be good”.

Say what you want about LSU’s Les Miles, but that guy has some guts. Some say he coaches like he is playing a video game – if he does, then I hope Texas A&M wises up and hires the premiere NCAA/Madden player our nation has to offer. Maybe that kid (well hopefully kid… and not middle-aged adult) would have the brash confidence to go for it and step up when the moment demands it.

Say what you want about Bob Stoops, but that guy is ruthless. Some say he can’t win the big one, but at least he can get to the big one. And you know what? Bob Stoops yearns to annihilate the other team. I am sure this season nearly killed him. Stoops doesn’t look to just win, but absolutely destroy everything about the opponent. I don’t care if it is unsportsmanlike. You know what else is unsportsmanlike? What the A&M football team has done to my emotions over the past five years. I don’t find much solace in being a “good loser”.

Whoever the Aggies look to hire as coach, I hope it is someone with a bit of fire in their belly. Sherman is a good coach in his own right, and maybe Aggieland just wasn’t his cup of tea. I want some raw emotion, some fearless calls. I want to win when we aren’t supposed to purely because of our grit, creativity, and determination. I want to lose knowing we took every chance afforded to us by that elusive play clock.

One nice thing about going to the SEC… we will be underdogs. And whoever is leading our underdog team, I hope they aren’t afraid to defy the norm, and start their own tradition. What if I don’t really want another Wrecking Crew? What if I want something new? Heck, I don’t care what it is; I just want winners, and a coach who PLAYS TO WIN on the gridiron.

Why 6-6 Had to Happen

I came across an interesting quote this morning in the Dallas Morning News, from Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde. He attended the Aggies’ game against Oklahoma State earlier this fall. You may remember that one. You know, the first top-10 matchup at Kyle Field in decades, which ended in a gut-wrenching 30-29 defeat, at the hands of a team now contending for a spot in the BCS National Championship. That one. I hate to pour salt on still open wounds, but it has to be done.

Anyway, what Forde had to say about what he saw that day really struck a chord. To sum it up, Forde said that Texas A&M was simply not ready for the move to the SEC. After the Aggies ran out of time against the Cowboys that sunny Saturday, he came across too many of the Aggie faithful telling the team “Good job, it’s ok, good job” after blowing that enormous halftime lead. Forde said every other team in the SEC would have been cussing their respective teams all the way home after such an embarrassing choke job. Now, I am not so sure that Aggies will ever be cussing out the players that represent our fine school, but I do think Forde had a valid point.

Texas A&M football fans expect a dominant team to cheer for. The yearning for the days of the Wrecking Crew becomes painfully obvious when seemingly every time the defense makes a play, someone wants to start the chant. The problem with the Aggie fan base’s approach to the football team is that no one wants to hold the program accountable, which is the point I think Forde was trying to make.

It seems that each year heading into fall camp, expectations are high for the Texas A&M football team. After another top-25 recruiting class, X number of returning starters, and a new defensive coordinator, the Aggie nation is ready to finally see the team capture that elusive second Big 12 conference championship (thank you, Sir Parker). And each year, the team lets us down. Some years aren’t quite as painful as others, but the end result is almost always the same: another mediocre season ending in a bowl game loss.

At some point, the 12th Man has to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “When is enough, enough?” When do I stop renewing my season tickets in the Zone? When do I spend that beautiful Saturday afternoon in April playing dominoes at the Dixie Chicken instead of attending the annual Maroon & White game? When do I stop overpaying for tickets to the Southwest Classic at Jerryworld, and just watch the game at home? Until we stopped showing such strong support for a mediocre team, there was little pressure on the higher-ups at A&M (which, when you think about it, no one is quite sure exactly who is calling the shots these days) to make the changes that needed to be made.

That all began to change in 2011. With the team ranked in the top-10 coming into the season, big results were expected in Aggieland this fall. The stunning defeat to Oklahoma State began a string of well-documented collapses that, quite frankly, embarrassed Texas A&M University. Aggies everywhere were understandably angry this fall. Pissed off, if you will. Here’s the silver lining: it needed to happen.

After two or three of those third quarter debacles, audible rumblings were being heard in the stands of Kyle Field. By the time A&M blew the last game against UT (no, we will not be referring to our rival as t.u. here at Aggie Rundown – deal with it), it became an outcry of anger towards the program. Finally it seemed as if the fan base finally understood what Pat Forde saw 10 weeks ago. It is no longer acceptable for the Texas A&M football team to be “competitive” and “try its hardest”. It is now about wins and losses, and living up to the hype.

If our team had simply gone 8-4 in 2011 and was headed to the Alamo Bowl, Mike Sherman would probably still be the head coach. Like lambs being led to the slaughter, A&M would be riding into the SEC next fall much in the same manner it has entered each mediocre season in the Big 12. Because of the expectations this year, and because of the manner in which all those games were lost, the 12th Man has found the inspiration for raising the bar. All I have to say is this – it’s about time.

Happy Trails, Mike Sherman

"There is no doubt in my mind what can be accomplished here," he said. "I know a lot of coaches would say the same thing. But I know the landscape here. I know the recruiting base. I know what needs to be done."

Those are the words of now former Texas A&M Head Football Coach Mike Sherman in his introductory press conference back in November of 2007. You may remember that a key factor in Bill Byrne’s decision to hire Sherman (more on that later) four years ago was Sherman’s familiarity with the football program. He was an assistant on R.C. Slocum’s coaching staff back in the 1990’s – or as the Aggies know it, the glory days. Apparently, so went the train of thought, hiring a head coach that had seen the “Wrecking Crew” up close and personal for seven years would instantly lead to a second coming of those famed teams that featured such stars as Kevin Smith, Quentin Coryatt, and Jamar Toombs, among others. Slocum could do it then, so why couldn’t one of his assistants do it now, a decade later?

Let’s venture back to 2007, and try to understand the logic of Mike Sherman being the right man for the job. If you really look at his “strengths” to be a great college football head coach, what were they? A career .578 winning percentage as a head coach in the NFL? No? Let’s try again. Three NFC North division titles in six seasons with the Green Bay Packers? Come on, your nephew’s Pop Warner time might have even won that historically weak division. The thing is, Bill Byrne was trying to save his job. Everyone and their mother knew that Coach Dennis Franchione (also a Byrne hire) did not get along with many of the big shots at A&M. Byrne was under pressure to find an A&M guy, and luckily for him, Sherman happened to be a stone’s throw from campus, 90 miles to the southeast in Houston.

What Bill Byrne forgot to realize (or maybe he did, and disregarded it) is that the nature of the game had changed dramatically in a relatively small amount of time. The fact that Mike Sherman understood the fan base and knew the Aggie Honor Code should not have been the deciding factor in his being hired as the head football coach at Texas A&M University. You see, most stud athletes these days don’t come from “Leave it to Beaver” type families. They don’t choose a school based on the potential to become a better man. The stars – the ones A&M has quite spectacularly (aside from Denver Bronco linebacker Von Miller) failed to recruit and/or develop over the past decade – want to play for a coach that gives them, among other things, a legitimate shot at a national title. There was never a legitimate chance for Texas A&M to become a great program under Sherman. He was simply too nice of a guy, too humble, too much of… an Aggie.

Mike Sherman should leave Texas A&M University with his head held high. He at least helped our football program become relevant again, while also laying a solid foundation for sustained growth. Unfortunately for Sherman, head coaches are the individuals held responsible for a team’s performance, good or bad. The real problem here may be higher up in the Athletic Department (don’t worry, Mr. Byrne, your time will come soon) but for now, the blame for this frustrating season falls on the shoulders of the coach.

Sherman acknowledged in his opening press conference that he knew what needed to be done at Texas A&M. Whether he should have been hired or not four years ago will probably be debated for years to come. The fact of the matter is, in 2011, Mike Sherman simply could not get it done (at least in the third quarter).