Given a Top 10 ranking in the college football polls to start the 2011 football season, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman could not keep the Aggies on that elite list based on their on-field performance.
But Sherman has been climbing up the rankings of embattled coaches this week on the website www.CoachesHotSeat.com, reaching the No. 3 spot this morning. He trails only Colorado State’s Steve Fairchild (No. 1) and Boston College’s Frank Spaziani (No. 2), now that the plug has been pulled on UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Washington State’s Paul Wulff, removing both men from the list.
As we’ve mentioned on multiple occasions in the past 10 days, it would be costly for A&M to buy out Sherman’s remaining contract (between $7 million and $9 million, say sources with knowledge of the deal) in the same off-season that the school will have to pay exit fees to the Big 12 for its impending move to the SEC in July (league bylaws mandate a $28 million departure fee, although the figure is expected to be negotiated down to roughly half that figure).
Multiple media reports, including one by a College Station radio station, cited a meeting today between Sherman and A&M regent James Wilson, arranged at Sherman's request. After the meeting, multiple reports said Sherman left the Aggies' football facility to resume his recruiting duties, with plans to visit prospects in Houston.
There has been speculation that some Houston-based alums have an interested in making a pitch to Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, a former A&M assistant who has led the Cougars to a 12-0 record and a berth in Saturday's Conference USA championship game. But the Arizona Repubic reported today that Sumlin has been offered the vacant post at Arizona State, which could take Sumlin off the market.
What all of this means in regard to Sherman's future at A&M remains to be seen.
At this juncture, a segment of A&M fans and administrators do not want to be hasty in removing Sherman _ who is 25-25 after four seasons, including a 6-6 mark this season _ because the Aggies were competitive in every game and because of a strong recruiting class pledged to A&M for 2012 (ranked 7th nationally by Rivals.com).
The Aggies held double-digit leads in five of their six losses, two of which came in overtime. Three other defeats were by one, two and four points.
All five of those losses were to teams headed to bowl games and currently ranked in the most recent BCS standings: No. 3 Oklahoma State (10-1), No. 8 Arkansas (10-2), No. 11 Kansas State (9-2), No. 22 Texas (7-4) and No. 25 Missouri (7-5).
The other loss came to No. 10 Oklahoma, 41-25, in Norman, Okla.
That is why A&M athletic director Bill Byrne made a plea for patience and reflection during his Weekly Wednesday column posted on the school’s website.
“I’m hearing the Queen of Hearts solution from Alice in Wonderland from many of you,” Byrne wrote. “We need to set aside our disappointment and build from here. We all need to remember our coaches and players put us in position to win all our games this season, and once we take the emotion out of what went wrong, we will find a way to fix it.”
One solution could involve requiring Sherman, who calls his own plays, to return next season with an offensive coordinator on his staff.
One thing is certain: If A&M does make the financial commitment to dismiss Sherman immediately, administrators need to do make the move quickly. Other schools have begun hiring replacement coaches, with Washington State scheduled to announce its new coach, Mike Leach, at a press conference this afternoon.
_ Jimmy Burch