Texas A&M football coach Mike Sherman has been relieved of his duties, athletic director Bill Byrne said in a statement released Thursday night.
All signs pointed Thursday night to the Aggies pursuing Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, a former A&M assistant, as Sherman’s replacement. Sumlin has led the Cougars to a 12-0 record and a berth in Saturday’s Conference USA championship game.
Other candidates include Louisville coach Charlie Strong, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Boise State coach Chris Petersen.
Sumlin also has an offer to coach at Arizona State, based on a report in the Arizona Republic, which apparently was a factor in A&M’s decision to make the call on Sherman before Sumlin decided on his next coaching stop.
Sherman, who finished 6-6 this season, posted a mark of 25-25 in four seasons at A&M. He is slated to receive a buyout of $5.4 million, said an A&M official, because the contract announced in July that called for a raise and extension was never executed.
The contract outlining the terms of Sherman’s extension, said an A&M official, wound up being signed by Sherman in late October but never received the signature of A&M president R. Bowen Loftin. If the extension agreement had been executed, the buyout would have been almost $9 million.
In his statement, Byrne said Sherman “operated our football program with the highest levels of character and integrity over the past four seasons and has served as a great ambassador for Texas A&M.”
Byrne said an interim coach will lead the Aggies in the team’s bowl game. A&M’s bowl destination will be decided Sunday. Details about who will take over in Sherman’s absence remained unclear Thursday.
“We will meet with the team and assistant coaches as soon as possible, probably [today],” Byrne said. “After discussions with our coaches, we will decide who will be the interim coach.”
A&M began the season with a Top 10 ranking and 18 returning starters from last year’s 9-4 squad. But the Aggies squandered double-digit leads in five of the team’s six losses, a factor that officials weighed in making Thursday’s decision.
The announcement of Sherman’s departure caught players and recruits by surprise Thursday. Several weighed in with thoughts via Twitter accounts. Shortly before school officials sent out the official announcement of Sherman’s ouster, speculation began building and A&M linebacker Sean Porter tweeted: “Uhhhh what the hell is going on around here[jb1] ?!?!”
On the day he was relieved of his duties, Sherman spent part of Thursday touching base with A&M recruits.
Matt Davis, a four-star quarterback prospect from Klein Forest, tweeted that Sherman informed him of his depature Thursday and the news “just about brought me to tears.” Davis wrote: “The thing I love about him is he said, ‘Matt, A&M is a great place and I still think you should go there and do great things.’”
Another A&M recruit, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi of Houston Westside, wrote that he “can’t believe they fired him.”
Sherman, a former head coach with the Green Bay Packers, called his own plays through his tenure at A&M. Among the nation’s 120 FBS schools, A&M ranked seventh nationally in total offense (497 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (39.58 avg.) this season. But the Aggies were 102nd in turnover margin, at minus-9.
Byrne said Sherman is “truly one of the great offensive minds in football, both collegiate and professional, and I know that he has much to offer the game of football in the future.”
In a statement, Loftin said: “Decisions of this nature are never easy, and I appreciate the patience of Aggies everywhere as we carefully evaluated the current state of our football program and the prospects for the future. I would like to thank Mike Sherman for personifying Texas A&M’s core values and instilling them within our student-athletes. Coach Sherman has created a solid foundation for Texas A&M to build upon in the future. For this, we are extremely appreciative, and wish him well in his next coaching assignment.”