Texas A&M has tried everything. Everything.
You can sit around and laugh as the Aggies' latest gamut — hiring, and then extending, Jimbo Fisher to massive contracts — blew up in a $77 million mess, but you can’t say they didn’t try. Landing Fisher, who had won a national title at Florida State, was considered a coup.
Really, it’s possible no program in the country tries as hard as Texas A&M to win big.
It’s just that the Aggies don’t succeed.
“A change in the leadership of the program was necessary in order for Aggie football to reach our full potential,” athletic director Ross Bjork said.
Credit A&M for not letting a past mistake become a future mistake. This wasn’t going to work, so the school was willing to spend lavishly to get out of the deal. In the end, Fisher was paid about $122 million for nearly six seasons of work — more than $20 million per year or $2.71 million per victory (45 wins).
It’s a lot of money, but A&M has a lot of money. It has even more ambition.
It’s part of what led the Aggies to bail on the Big 12 a dozen years ago and stake a claim to the first (and only) SEC team in the mighty state of Texas. It’s part of what led them to expand Kyle Field to over 100,000 seats. It’s part of what led them to build as lavish and modern facilities as anyone in America … and then continue to update them.
Budgets? Best in class, everything from a massive support staff to a helicopter to fly around to various Friday Night Lights games and wow recruits. Fan passion? They get tens of thousands to come out for a midnight cheer practice the night before home games.
And when name, image and likeness became a thing, the Aggies didn’t cautiously wade in or wax on about their discomfort with “buying” recruits (well, other than Jimbo, at least publicly). The boosters just went out and broke Alabama’s stranglehold on signing the top-ranked class.
This is A&M. Whatever you need, whatever you want, whatever we can do … ASAP.
And yet here we are.
The Aggies have won double-digit games just once in 25 years — that magical Johnny Manziel season in 2012. That year and 2020 are the only time they managed to not lose at least four games during that stretch. They’ve yet to win the SEC West, let alone the league. Six times in the past 12 years they reached the AP Top 10 during the season only to wind up unranked in the final poll.
It’s fair to wonder if there is something inherently broken with the place, but pinpointing what that might be seems impossible.
They really just need a great coach.
Now more than ever.
Can they get one? If you are willing to effectively spend $20 million per year for the Fisher experiment, then you can break the pay scale that sees Nick Saban sitting atop with $11.4 million per year at Alabama.
Is $15 million per year enough to lure Urban Meyer? The Aggies would no doubt love to bring back their old tight end Dan Campbell (1995-99), but he’s got the Detroit Lions at 7-2 and there is absolutely no way he’s leaving a Super Bowl contender, even if he wanted to try the college game.
Timing doesn’t help. A&M fired Fisher with two games remaining on the season (and after a 51-10 win) because it knows the December transfer portal window is critical to maintaining and building a roster. Same with the December early signing day.
Even waiting for the coach of a playoff contender — Oregon’s Dan Lanning or Washington’s Kalen DeBoer — might be too slow.
Patience is probably a virtue here, but it’s understandable if the Aggies lack that. They’ve been doing everything imaginable for a long time and gotten little from it.
Besides, some of their prior advantages are gone.
They can no longer tell Lone Star recruits that they and they alone offer the best of both — stay in-state and play in the best league in the country. Texas is in the SEC next season. So too is Oklahoma, which draws major talent from Texas and whose campus sits about as close to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as College Station.
They also can’t hide from the Longhorns and Sooners any longer. For a dozen years they could claim superiority by drafting off the SEC, but avoid head-to-head competition. Now they are going to play.
Oh, and that initial unapologetic NIL play? Everyone is doing it now.
Why Kevin Sumlin couldn’t capitalize on Johnny Football and why Jimbo couldn’t come close to duplicating his FSU success can be dissected later. They didn’t. And the Aggies watched some of their fundamental edges sift through the hourglass.
They still have a lot though. They still have more than anyone should need.
They just need the right coach. Again.