Kevin Sumlin was still the football coach at Texas A&M as of early Sunday afternoon. Until he heard differently, he planned to hit the road recruiting later in the day. The coach, who was supposed to be fired after the Aggies finished their regular season against LSU, remained conspicuously employed not because of any change of heart on the part of the Texas A&M administration but because the two sides seem to be involved in a high-stakes game of chicken.
According to Sumlin’s Texas A&M contract, the school owes him the remaining balance of the deal (a little more than $10 million currently) within 60 days if Sumlin is fired. There is no offset language in the deal that would allow part of what Texas A&M owes to be paid by any school that hires Sumlin. Sumlin would like to work somewhere else immediately, but he also would like his $10 million. (Because who wouldn’t?) But if Sumlin were to take another job before he’s fired, Texas A&M would contractually owe him nothing.
Sumlin isn’t going to leave College Station without getting paid. If Texas A&M’s top target is indeed Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies can’t do anything to lure Fisher until after he finishes his season Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. But Texas A&M can’t keep Sumlin much longer, because how weird will it look to have a coach recruiting for the Aggies who reportedly isn’t going to be the Aggies’ coach next year?
Texas A&M administrators also know that Sumlin wants to get in on the jobs that are open now. Arizona State, a school Sumlin heavily considered before taking the Texas A&M job, fired Todd Graham on Sunday morning and is in the market for a new coach. That seems like a logical fit, but Sumlin isn’t likely to walk away from his payday at Texas A&M when he could ultimately get paid and get another Power 5 job.
A source told SI.com that there has been no contact between Sumlin and Arizona State, and that makes sense. At the moment, Sumlin has a lucrative job at Texas A&M. It does him no good to leave that job voluntarily if he gets $10 million for getting fired.
What can the sides do? Simple. They can negotiate. Maybe Sumlin agrees to take that $10 million over a period of years instead of in the next 60 days in return for Texas A&M getting this over with now so he can seek other jobs before they get filled. Maybe Sumlin agrees to take less money now. Both sides need to find a solution, but Sumlin appears to have the better leverage.
So what will he do? He’ll go about his business and wait to get fired.