USC Coach Candidates: Kevin Sumlin

Could sunny Southern California lure Kevin Sumlin from College Station? (Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)

With Lane Kiffin officially out at USC, CBR is looking at the candidates considered to be the Trojans' next head coach. First up is the man who has brought the Texas A&M Aggies back to prominence.

USC Coach Candidate: Kevin Sumlin

Current job: Texas A&M head coach

Strengths: Offensive innovator; great reputation as a recruiter

Weaknesses: Dat D

Why USC would hire Kevin Sumlin

Sumlin has rocketed to the top of the coaching hot lists as a result of his work in leading Texas A&M through its transition to the Southeastern Conference. In their first season under Sumlin’s watch, the Aggies finished the season No. 5 in the country and won 11 games, including a shocking upset of Alabama and a thorough stomping of former Big 12 mate Oklahoma in last season’s Cotton Bowl. A&M isn’t showing any signs of slowing down in year two.

Aside from his deserved reputation as an offensive guru, Sumlin has proven to be a dynamic presence on the sidelines and in front of the microphones. He’s confident, energetic and charismatic, and he has demonstrated a deft touch in his ability to market his program. He also deserves high marks for how he has handled the circus around star quarterback Johnny Manziel.

If that's not enough, Sumlin flies around wooing recruits in a “Swagcopter,” the college football coach's equivalent of the Batmobile.

Why USC wouldn’t hire Kevin Sumlin

*If ties to the Trojans or Southern California are a prerequisite, Pat Haden can look elsewhere.

*Historically, USC has had a fetish for “pro-style” offenses. That’s not Sumlin’s game.

*Is it Sumlin, or his quarterbacks? Sumlin was blessed with prolific passer Case Keenum at Houston and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at A&M. In the one season in which Sumlin lost his star QB to injury, 2010, Houston finished 5-7.

*Finally, if you really want to pick nits, Sumlin’s resume is lacking in tangible accomplishments. His teams won their division in Conference USA twice, but each time they fell short in the league’s title game. With this season’s early loss to Alabama, it seems unlikely that A&M will get a crack at the SEC championship this year.


On its face, very few jobs in college football can match the allure of USC. The Trojans have tradition to go along with resources and new facilities. Even without the new digs, they’ve historically dominated SoCal’s fertile recruiting crescent, which is generally seen as less cutthroat than the hunting grounds of Texas and the Southeast. On top of that, the Pac-12 has built some serious momentum on the national stage under the leadership of Larry Scott, but at the same time, the league is still less competitive than Sumlin’s current home in the SEC. If Sumlin is looking to really win big on the collegiate level, Southern Cal has a higher ceiling than A&M.

On the other hand, Sumlin comes off as being fairly entrenched at A&M. He’s making big money already and has more goodwill with his current employer than any coach outside of Tuscaloosa. Looking ahead, he has turned A&M into a force on the recruiting trail, which should enable the Aggies to amass talent for the long run. As for a change of scenery, there’s nothing in his background to suggest that Sumlin is dying to move to California.

In sum, it’s easy to see why USC would want to hire Sumlin. What’s less clear is why it would be the right place for him.