Kevin Sumlin was fired as head coach of Texas A&M after six seasons, opening up one of the most appealing jobs in the region.
Sumlin started off his A&M career with a bang, going 11-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl. He went 9-4 in his second season, but the post-Johnny Manziel era resulted in three straight 8-5 seasons and a 7-5 this year with a bowl game to come.
He finishes his career at A&M with a 51-26 mark, but only once did he have a winning conference record in the tough SEC West, and that was his first season. He recruited like a fiend, but simply could not compete with the Alabamas, Auburns, and LSUs of the world year-in and year-out. His record against those teams was an abysmal 4-14, including 0-6 against LSU, 1-11 against Alabama and LSU.
After Saturday's loss to LSU, Sumlin said, "You go to sleep at night knowing that things are in a better place than certainly when I got here six years ago." He did accomplish that.
But he was being paid to be a top 10 program, compete with the big boys and occasionally make a run at the playoffs. That did not happen.
He will get a $10.4 million buyout and was the 10th highest paid coach in college football in 2017. Sumlin is a good football coach and will get another opportunity. (Perhaps at Arizona State.) Was firing Sumlin the right move? Only time will tell. Things do not always improve with a coaching change. But the expectations at A&M are high — maybe unrealistic — and Sumlin did not live up to them over the past four seasons.
So what is next? Several names have been floated all season. The Aggies will be competing with Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas in the SEC alone. Chip Kelly is already off the market, heading to UCLA. The Florida job was the crown jewel of what was available, but Mississippi State coach and former Florida coordinator Dan Mullen filled that void Sunday.
There are no guarantees A&M will be better off with a new coach. In fact, things could get worse. But that's the game in college football. This year's silly season might be the silliest yet.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 of the names that have already popped up in relation to the A&M job and others. Some of these make little sense and won't happen, and there are some pretty good jobs available that A&M will be competing with for a new coach. (Updated with the Mullen hire; originally he was on this list.)
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
The Seminoles are headed for a 6-6 season after losing their quarterback in the opener. But prior to 2017, Fisher's worst season was a 9-win year in 2011, and he has a national championship on his resume. He built those records in the ACC, which is strong at the top but not nearly as deep as the SEC, so duplicating it at A&M might be hard. Still, he would be a coup. It seems doubtful he would leave FSU, where he has had tons of success and makes $5.7 million per year, especially since he turned down LSU last year. But there is a lot of smoke. Fisher was coy and evasive when asked if he would be at Florida State next season. It would not be a shock if he wound up getting a massive new deal at FSU, or bolting for A&M. Many Aggie insiders believe it is a done deal, but a lot of people at LSU thought the same thing last year. Aggies AD Scott Woodward worked with Fisher at LSU, and they reportedly have a good relationship. This would be the best possible result for the Aggies and a home run hire.
Chad Morris, SMU
The former Clemson OC has probably reached the limit of what he can do at SMU, and he attended A&M, has great ties to the state of Texas, and would be a nice fit. His name has also been linked to Mississippi, but A&M would be a much better job. Not as sexy as Fisher, but would be a solid hire with a lot of upside.
Les Miles, former LSU coach
The Aggies know him well, as he pummeled them five straight seasons. He went 114-34 in 11 years, including a national championship and two SEC titles at LSU before being shown the door. His lack of offensive prowess got him booted at LSU, and might give A&M pause.
Scott Frost, UCF
One of the sexiest names among up and comers, where Frost winds up will set off a lot of dominos. That's unlikely to be A&M, because he played at Nebraska, which is also open. That job would likely be more appealing for Frost, whose star is on the rise after an unbeaten season.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Campbell has quickly made Iowa State relevant, going 7-5, and his name is going to be thrown out all over the place. But he has zero ties to the state of Texas, and that rarely works in the state. He will more likely end up elsewhere.
Neal Brown, Troy
Brown has gone 18-5 in two years at Troy, a team which had little success before he arrived. He also did something this season Sumlin never did at A&M — beat LSU, a win that put him on everyone's radar. He was OC at Texas Tech, so he has some ties to the state. Still, he has only been a head coach for three years and it would be a huge jump.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Another long shot, but Fuente built Memphis and got the Hokies to their first 10-win season since 2011 last year and followed it up with a 9-win season (so far) this year. His last two seasons at Memphis his teams won 10 and 9 games, respectively. Coached as an assistant at TCU, so he has ties to the state. A dark horse hire that could turn out very well.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina
He has ties to the state, but his teams have tailed off big time the last two years. He would have been a much sexier hire last season and would be more questionable now.
Chris Petersen, Washington
He has gone 36-16 in four years at Washington and made the college football playoff in 2016. The only real tie is he worked with A&M's AD Woodward at Washington. He has spent all but one year of his coaching career out West, however, so it's hard to say if he would be interested. Still, worth a phone call. Would be a terrific hire.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
This one seems out of left field, but Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported he was on the Aggies' radar. Has done a terrific job at Utah, but seems like an odd fit.
This story originally appeared on SportsMap.