Texas A&M paid $9.9 million in February to football coach Kevin Sumlin, who was let go in November 2017 with two years left on his contract, according to public records obtained by the Dallas Morning News.
“Per the terms of Sumlin’s five-year, $30 million guaranteed deal signed in 2015, A&M had to pay the remaining salary within 60 days of his termination,” the story reports. “A&M didn’t need the full time frame to hold up its end of the bargain. The payments to Sumlin and his corporation, #YESSIR!, were completed by mid-February, less than a month after he was named Arizona’s next football coach.”
Sumlin’s contract included the use of two cars “through the car program of the athletic program” and obligates the school to pay Sumlin for the duration of his contract even if he is released before the contract is up.
Shortly before his contract was ended, Sumlin took heat from A&M Regent Tony Buzbee, a Houston attorney who publicly castigated Sumlin via social media.
“He recruits well, but can’t coach the big games, or the close games,” he wrote on Facebook in September. “…Our coaches were dominated on national TV, yet again. I’m only one vote on the Board of Regents, but when the time comes, my vote will be that Kevin Sumlin needs to GO. In my view, he should go now. We owe it to our school and our players. We can do better.”
Buzbee declined an interview request. In an email he said, “Obviously, from a fiscal standpoint, I don’t like these payouts. Unfortunately, they have become the norm in college sports contracts.”
He wrote that a number of people are involved in the hiring and firing of a coach, including the athletic director, the president of the school and “most importantly” the fund-raising 12th Man Foundation.
“When a recommendation is made to make a change, I think we regents understand that this is a decision that has been vetted and thought through long before it appears on our agenda. All that being said, most certainly cost is a factor, but when it’s time to make a change you make the change.”
Texas A&M is the top school in the country in sports revenue at $194 million in 2016, up almost 100 percent since 2009, according to recent data from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. The programs have been self-sustaining since 2014, using no school money but instead relying on ticket sales, licensing agreements and contributions.
The data also shows that A&M’s spending per student on academics between 2010 and 2015 increased eight percent, while spending on football players per scholarship rose 51 percent in the same period. At the same time, A&M’s spending on instructional costs per full-time student increased five percent while the other schools in the Southeastern Conference increased that spend 13 percent.
The Knight Commission’s database allows users to analyze and compare spending on athletics and academics. As college sports marketing has boomed, some universities have developed self-sustaining athletic departments.
Some schools, though, pass along sports user fees to students as part of tuition. At A&M, regents in 2013 approved a fee on students of $2.42 per credit hour to pay for a $450 million football stadium renovation. The fee was not immediately implemented but was made part of student fees recently to help retire the stadium bonds.
At the time the extra charge was passed, then-university President R. Bowen Loftin rationalized it to regents in a public meeting.
“Kyle Field is a vital and unique part of Aggieland; we all agree with that,” Loftin told the regents according to a news report. “Its redevelopment is not just about football or athletics, but about the visibility of Texas A&M on a national and international stage. That visibility benefits all Aggies, not just those who may play football or attend football games.”
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].