The race is officially on for Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin. Last year, Sumlins name was floated around for high profile jobs, including the vacancy at Tennessee. Now, as Mike Sherman is out at Texas A&M (per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman) and with the Arizona State job open as well, it seems far less than likely that Sumlin will be UH's coach come bowl season. The Sun Devils have already reportedly offered Sumlin the job with a salary in the neighborhood of $2.5 million a year. It's looking more and more like there will be an all-out bidding war in the coming days.
Check out this solid blog post from Sam Khan of the Houston Chronicle aptly titled "Its a Good Time to be Kevin Sumlin."
In a few short years, Sumlin has gone from young, up-and-coming assistant coach to the hottest name in coaching circles outside of Urban Meyer, who accepted the Ohio State job on Monday. Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News Texas A&M beat reporter Brent Zwerneman reports that Sumlin is the Aggies’ top target after the dismissal of head coach Mike Sherman, and based on all the noise coming from the West, Arizona State has its sights set on him as well.
Our old friend Dustin Rensink, of SB Nation Houston, has admirably stated the case for why Sumlin should wait and see before jumping for the A&M job. Rensink wants Sumlin to consider building a Boise State type non-AQ powerhouse in Houston rather than jumping off to a team destined to languish in the cellar of the SEC East for the foreseeable future.
Take a look at the coaching situations at other top non-AQ schools. Boise State - after Dan Hawkins left in 2005, he floundered at Colorado. Chris Petersen has stepped in, hasn't missed a step, and has turned down a number of bigger offers. Bronco Mendenhall has been pursued by a number of AQ schools, but is still in his 7th year at BYU. Utah kept head coach Kyle Whittingham around a while (he's now in his 7th year), and it helped them move into an AQ conference. TCU is ready to shed the non-AQ label, largely thanks to its ability to keep Gary Patterson (in his 12th year) around, despite a plethora of offers from bigger conferences.
It's a shame that as soon as a low budget school finds a coach that can win with limited resources, as Sumlin has done, the countdown begins for a paycheck to lure him away. But hey, such is life in the C-USA. And with Sumlin and Larry Fedora both garnering such intense interest now, don't be surprised if both teams in Saturday's Conference USA Championship game are searching for a new coach by the the end of next week.