Following Texas A&M’s loss to LSU on Saturday, athletic director Scott Woodward has decided to fire coach Kevin Sumlin. During his six-year run in College Station, Sumlin guided the Aggies to a 51-26 record. However, after winning 20 games through the first two years, Sumlin was never able to surpass eight wins in each of the next four seasons. Texas A&M was also just 25-23 in SEC play under Sumlin’s direction.
Texas A&M seems poised to spend big on this hire. In addition to the money factor and recruiting territory, the program has outstanding facilities and fan support. All of the pieces are in place to be a consistent top-25 team.
Who could replace Sumlin at Texas A&M? Here are nine names to watch:
9 Coaching Candidates to Replace Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M
Matt Campbell, head coach, Iowa State
Campbell has a significant buyout ($9.4 million) if he wants to leave for another job. With that in mind, it’s difficult to see Campbell leaving Iowa State this offseason. However, while that’s a steep sum of money to pay, Texas A&M isn’t hurting for cash to make a move on the coaching trail. Campbell is one of the rising stars in college football’s head coach ranks, as the Cyclones have improved from 3-9 last year to 7-5 in 2017. Campbell also guided Toledo to a 35-15 mark over four full seasons as the program’s head coach from 2011-15. Additionally, Campbell played his college ball at the ultra-successful Division III program Mount Union.
Jimbo Fisher, head coach, Florida State
Fisher’s name has popped up in the rumor mill as Texas A&M’s No. 1 target to replace Kevin Sumlin. Of course, it remains to be seen if Fisher is actually interested in leaving Florida State. Could Fisher use Texas A&M or the other openings as a way to get upgrades to facilities or assistant pay for an upgraded staff? Fisher inherited big shoes to fill in replacing Bobby Bowden in 2010 and has guided the Seminoles to an 83-23 record in that span. While the 2017 season has been a disappointment, Florida State won at least 10 games every year from 2012-16 and claimed the 2013 national title. Fisher is also a good recruiter, can develop quarterbacks and has previous SEC experience from stints as an assistant at LSU and Auburn.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Virginia Tech
Fuente is a longshot, but Texas A&M should at least to inquire to find out if there is any interest. After a playing career at Oklahoma and Murray State, Fuente spent time as an assistant at Illinois State and TCU (Co-offensive coordinator from 2009-11). He later took over as Memphis' head coach in 2012 and went 26-23 over four seasons. After winning seven games in his first two years, Fuente won 19 over the next two seasons. Fuente replaced Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech in 2016 and is 19-7 through two years.
Gary Kubiak, former NFL head coach
As a Texas native and a former Texas A&M quarterback, Kubiak has a lot of ties to College Station. Additionally, he spent two years with the Aggies as a running back coach from 1992-93. Kubiak left the collegiate coaching ranks for the NFL in 1994 and remained there until his retirement in 2016. Kubiak went 61-64 as the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006-13 and went 21-11 (2015-16) with a Super Bowl title in 2015 with Broncos. While Kubiak is a good fit on paper, he retired due to health issues and a return to the sideline seems unlikely.
Mike Leach, head coach, Washington State
Leach doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave Washington State. However, the athletic director who hired him in Pullman – Bill Moos – left to take on that same role at Nebraska this season. With the change at the top of the athletic department in Pullman, Leach’s name has been mentioned at Arkansas and Nebraska this offseason. Leach is 38-37 since taking over at Washington State in 2012. After a 12-25 start to his tenure in Pullman, Leach has won at least eight games in each of the last three years, recording a 26-12 record in that span. Prior to Washington State, Leach went 84-43 at Texas Tech, guiding the Red Raiders to a winning record every season from 2000-09. Leach is known for his wide-open, pass-first offenses. However, defense isn't an afterthought, as the Cougars rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense this year.
Chad Morris, head coach, SMU
Morris is a coach with extensive ties to the state of Texas and figures to be near the top of Texas A&M’s wish list. After spending from 1994-09 in the high school ranks, he was hired to call the plays at Tulsa in 2010. Under Morris’ watch, the Golden Hurricane averaged 41.4 points a game that season. Morris became Clemson’s play-caller in 2011 and remained in Death Valley through 2014. His hire and development of the offense was a big reason why the Tigers won 42 games from 2011-14. Morris inherited a struggling SMU program in 2015 but has brought steady improvement to Dallas. The Mustangs are 14-22 over the last three years but finished 5-7 last season and are 7-5 through 12 games in 2017. One area to watch: Defense. Under Morris, SMU has ranked ninth or worse in the AAC in scoring defense. If he’s hired, Morris will have to hire a top-notch defensive coordinator. With his ability to recruit the state of Texas, along with a strong background on offense, Morris would be a great fit at Texas A&M.
Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis
Norvell’s name is expected to pop up with openings at Arkansas and Ole Miss, so there could be plenty of competition for the 36-year-old coach. The Texas native played his collegiate ball at Central Arkansas and spent time there as a graduate assistant. The second-year head coach picked up where Justin Fuente left off and has Memphis poised to finish in the top 25 this season. The Tigers went 8-5 in Norvell’s debut and are off to a 10-1 start in 2017. Overall, Memphis is 18-6 under Norvell and claimed the AAC’s West Division this season. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Memphis, Norvell worked under Todd Graham at Arizona State as the offensive coordinator from 2012-15 and also at Pitt (2011) and Tulsa (2007-10). Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coaches at age 36. And he’s also one of the nation’s top minds on offense.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Venables is one of college football’s top assistant coaches. Considering he is making over $1.5 million a season, the former Kansas State linebacker isn’t going to be in an hurry to take a head coaching job. After his playing career with the Wildcats, Venables worked in Manhattan as a graduate assistant (1993-95) and linebackers coach (1996-98). He left for Oklahoma in 1999 and worked as a co-defensive coordinator until 2003. Beginning in 2004, Venables assumed the defensive coordinator role after Mike Stoops was hired as Arizona’s head coach and remained in that role until 2011. Venables has coordinated Clemson’s defense since 2012 and is a big reason why this program has emerged as a national title contender on a consistent basis.
Frank Wilson, head coach, UTSA
Wilson is a rising star and a name to watch for Power 5 openings this offseason. The New Orleans native worked his way through the ranks as an assistant coach at Ole Miss (2005-07), Southern Miss (2008), Tennessee (2009) and LSU (2010-15) before landing at UTSA prior to the 2016 season. Wilson is regarded as one of college football’s top recruiters and is 12-12 through two years with the Roadrunners. Wilson guided UTSA to the program’s first bowl appearance in 2016 and should make another postseason trip in 2017.