Mac Engel

Texas A&M must stop the Buyout Bonanza

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, left, and Florida head coach Jim McElwain meet at midfield before their game in 2017. McElwain is already out at Florida, and Sumlin is expected to be gone after this season.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, left, and Florida head coach Jim McElwain meet at midfield before their game in 2017. McElwain is already out at Florida, and Sumlin is expected to be gone after this season. AP

Saturday at Kyle Field is Senior Day for Texas A&M, and it may as well be Kevin Sumlin Get Lost Day, too.

The Kevin Sumlin era at Texas A&M is going to end this year, because money is of no concern.

The announcement from the maroon has not been made, and the “For Sale” sign has not been put up in Sumlin’s front yard, but both are formalities.

Considering how the Aggies began the season — blowing a 34-point third-quarter lead at UCLA to lose by one point — their record of 5-4 is impressive. Playing and coaching when you know the staff is likely gone is miserable and lends itself to shutting it down.

On closer look, the Aggies have defeated no team of note.

The Aggies’ wins have come against: Nicholls (7-2), Louisiana (4-4), Arkansas (4-5), South Carolina (6-3), and Florida (3-5). With a game remaining against LSU, a team A&M has not defeated since joining the SEC, the Aggies could finish with eight wins for a fourth consecutive season.

“You know what you signed up for,” Sumlin said on the SEC coaches’ conference call when I asked him if coaching/playing in these conditions is especially difficult. “It’s probably more difficult on families than the coaches personally, because they are involved in it and you are working. The people who are outside of it, it probably affects them more than the coaches themselves.”

Barring a football miracle, college football is apt to see a slew of firings next month that will cost public schools a small fortune, including Texas A&M.

These types of changes are costing schools millions and millions of dollars, all in the name of getting “rid of that loser.” The firings are usually reactionary and, in the end, lead to another bust of a hire, and a bigger big buyout check.

The cycle is madness, and someone needs to be the adult and make a concerted effort to change the type of spending that only a government contractor would appreciate. No coach is being given enough time to make a dent.

Don’t feel too badly for Sumlin. Being a part of the Buyout Bonanza is a great gig. The coaches win millions, even when they lose.

This is a small list of the coaches who are potentially out after this season, and the buyout figures that have been reported by USA Today:

Sumlin: $10.4 million. It’s expensive but unavoidable. Since the R.C. Slocum era ended in 2002, the Aggies have had three coaches and finished in the Top 25 three times.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: $6.7 million.After blowing a sure-win at home against Kansas State on Saturday, the tenure of Coach Bro looks to be coming to an end. Since firing Mike Leach after the 2009 season, the Red Raiders have hired two coaches and never finished in the Top 25.

Bobby Petrino, Louisville: $4.25 million. His athletic department is in shambles after the basketball team was caught up in an FBI sting. U of L AD Tim Jurich brought Petrino back for a second go-around in 2014, and the Cardinals have been decent since he returned. But Jurich is out. To remove Petrino would be a university decision to clean house and rid itself of the major players tied to Jurich.

Mike Riley, Nebraska: $6.6 million.Riley is a good guy who should never have left Oregon State. The Nebraska brand is damaged, and become increasingly irrelevant in the overcrowded Big 10. Since Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season, the Cornhuskers have had four head coaches, one Top-10 finish, and will miss out on the Top 25 for a fifth consecutive year.

Butch Jones, Tennessee: $8.48 million. He’s gone. The figure does not include the money to pay the assistants, which pushes this price tag to well over $10 million. Since Phil Fulmer was shoved out after the 2008 season, the Volunteers have had three coaches, four losing records and seven years when it did not finish in the Top 25.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas: $5.9 million. Why Arkansas thought Bielema was a good fit coming from Wisconsin will forever remain a great mystery. The Hogs had their perfect coach in Bobby Petrino. Petrino led the Hogs to a No. 5 finish in 2011, but then he had a “motorcyle accident,” and Arkansas has not finished in the Top 25 since.

Jim McElwain, Florida: $4 million. He recently reached a settlement with Florida to leave for $4 million. Urban Meyer’s decision to retire so he could spend more time with his family after the 2010 season led the Gators back into the swamp. McElwain looked like an upgrade over Will Muschamp, but then he got those “death threats.”

David Beaty, Kansas: $3 million. The Kansas athletic department is not loaded, and to fire Beaty will require cash it doesn’t have. The buyout could keep Beaty in Lawrence for another season. KU is the worst job in Power 5 football.

Jim Mora Jr. UCLA: $12.25 million. Some of this money could be offset but the point is UCLA is going to be on the hook for a massive check to a guy it should never have hired. Mora Jr. is a weaker version of Lane Kiffin. The Bruins are the Bruins, and in L.A. they are USC Lite. Not since the days of Terry Donahue and Troy Aikman have the Bruins had a good prolonged run. Firing Mora is just more bad money after bad money.

The men are enjoying buyouts at institutions of higher learning that would likely represent the entire budget for several academic departments in an academic year. And there will likely be other head coaches fired to make this total even higher.

Perhaps there will be a break point to stop or slow this Buyout Bonanza. But the way the season has progressed, the Red Raiders and the Aggies are preparing to write big checks just to make a person go away and not work.

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