On Saturday it was announced that Kevin Sumlin had signed a six-year extension to remain the head football coach at Texas A&M for the foreseeable future, sending a clear signal that he wanted to stay in College Station for the long haul. But Rumors and Rants has learned exclusively from sources at USC that Sumlin had been lobbying hard for the vacant head coaching position at the school for the better part of two months.
As soon as Lane Kiffin was fired in late September, Sumlin’s representatives were contacted and told their client was on a list of potential candidates to be his replacement. Sumlin then sent word through back-channels that he wanted the job and his wife in particular was excited about the prospect of moving to Los Angeles.
Originally Sumlin’s representatives sent the message to USC athletic director Pat Haden (again, through back-channels, which is how this stuff happens) that their client would only take the job if he was the only target. He did not want to risk looking like he was aiming for the job, then lose out to someone else. That would have made for an awkward situation at Texas A&M and would have made recruiting far more difficult.
USC made it clear to Sumlin and his people that he was on a list of about five candidates (the targets shifted over time based on how this season has played out and interviews conducted) and that he would not have the chance to separate himself until he interviewed for the position. Sumlin was hesitant to interview during the season because he was worried someone might find out or it might leak to the press. So the two sides agreed to meet in a neutral location (not College Station or Los Angeles) the Sunday after the regular season was over.
The USC delegation was scheduled to fly to a pre-determined neutral location to interview Sumlin on December 1 (today), but would also be meeting with two other candidates on the same day. We have been told repeatedly by USC sources and have had it confirmed over and over again throughout the coaching search Sumlin was not the favorite for the job because no favorite has emerged. Haden has insisted on interviewing all the candidates before deciding on a leader or a top target. Any reports to the contrary are completely false.
For the two months leading up to this past week, Sumlin’s representatives were in near constant contact with USC, continually letting Haden’s people know that he wanted the job. He felt quarterback Johnny Manziel was set to jump to the NFL and he was not looking forward to a rebuild next season. He wanted a new challenge and thought the path to a national championship would be easier at USC.
As the season progressed and the people at USC started digging into Sumlin’s background, his coaching philosophy, etc., some began to sour on him as a top option. That’s not to say he wasn’t still a target, but he had fallen down a few notches in some eyes. His team’s 8-4 record and scoring defense (84th in the nation at 30.9 points per game) also worked against him. Still, they were intrigued because he was pushing so hard for the job.
Then in the middle of last week Sumlin’s representatives contacted USC, canceled their December 1 meeting and asked that his name be taken off the list of candidates. He had decided to remain at Texas A&M and was set to sign an extension. Most people at USC expected that would be the eventual outcome all along, especially as the season went on and some of the higher-ups began to sour on him.
USC currently has a list of about four candidates (we promised our sources we wouldn’t divulge names), though it’s not hard to figure out who they are if you have been following the school’s coaching search.
Any reports that Sumlin turned down an offer from USC are completely false. The school never offered anything and never had him as the “favorite” as some have reported. As stated before, Haden has insisted on interviewing all candidates before offering anything to anyone. Sumlin never interviewed and was never offered the job, either through back-channels or outright.
As with all of USC’s potential candidates, parameters of what the school would be offering its head coach were discussed, but that’s normal in any coaching search and there was nothing different about how things were discussed with Sumlin.
The fact is that until last week, Sumlin was pushing incredibly hard to get the job, then had a change of heart and decided to stay at Texas A&M. Those in Aggieland will tell you he simply loves it there, while those at USC will tell you he didn’t want to chance losing out in the race to become the coach of the Trojans. The real truth likely lies in the middle.
From our perspective he decided to stay where he’s comfortable and take the bird in the hand, rather than risk going out on a limb and not getting the USC job.
UPDATE: Sources close to the Texas A&M football program have confirmed for us that Sumlin was considering leaving as recently as a few weeks ago. They also said his ultimate goal is an NFL head coaching gig.
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