The man in charge of Texas A&M’s athletic department when Kevin Sumlin received a six-year, $30 million contract extension claims he had “nothing” to do with the terms of the deal.
Former A&M athletic director Eric Hyman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he had “no say” over the contract and it was simply put on his desk.
“I have done this job a long time and I don’t blame Kevin Sumlin. If someone is going to give you $5 million a year for six years, it would have been stupid of him to turn it down,” Hyman said. “But the contract was given to me, and it was ‘This is what we are going to do.’ I looked at myself and I was stunned.
“I had no say so over it. I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I had worked with Steve Spurrier for years, and he was paid a heck of a lot less than Coach Sumlin. And he won national championships after conference championships. And then you are making this commitment to a person, and again I don’t blame Kevin, that’s never won a conference championship.
Sumlin entered 2017 in a win-or-else situation because of comments made by his current athletic director Scott Woodward, who said this spring that Sumlin “knows he has to win and win this year.”
A&M looked to be on the way to doing that in Week 1, but after quarterback Nick Starkel injured his ankle, the Aggies collapsed in the second half and allowed UCLA to win 45-44. (Starkel is out for the season.)
In the two games that have followed, the Aggies haven’t been too convincing. But both have been wins and now conference play starts on Saturday vs. Arkansas.
The timing of the game is the impetus for the Star-Telegram’s interview with Hyman, who lives in the Dallas area. But his comments feel like an attempt to reframe history.
Sumlin officially received his contract extension in 2013, a year after the Aggies’ run with Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback. The 2013 season was a bit of a letdown, but Manziel struggled with injuries (and the fame that came with being “Johnny Football” as he was suspended for the first half of the season opener for an autograph scandal).
The contract came about a year after Sumlin had signed a contract that bumped his pay to $3.1 million for the 2013 season.
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At the time of Sumlin’s contract extension, Hyman was also effusive in his praise for the head coach. Yeah, that’s part of his job. But he could have toned down the hyperbole just a little bit if he was truly as “stunned” about the contract as he said he was.
“This is a very sincere, longtime commitment to an individual who has done a marvelous job, in all aspects of the job,” Hyman said via ESPN in 2013. “From our student-athletes, from a competitive standpoint, from the community to the Aggie family, everybody is extremely excited to have him leading the programs.”
Sumlin was the seventh-highest paid coach in the country in 2016. And he wasn’t even No. 1 among coaches in the state of Texas or among coaches who hadn’t won a conference title. Former Texas coach Charlie Strong’s pay was $5.2 million.
Strong was hired at Texas just weeks after Sumlin’s contract extension was finalized. Given that he’s now at South Florida and Sumlin is still at A&M — no matter what an outspoken regent thinks — it’s pretty safe to say A&M’s decision has been a better investment.
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