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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Football

Sumlin faces tough decisions


In just four seasons, head coach Kevin Sumlin has become the second winningest coach in UH history. Sumlin has led the Cougars to the best record in program history at 12-0 and could help the Cougars see their first BCS bowl with a win Saturday. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

Not every team is lucky enough to still have its season alive. Several head coaches have been fired, opening vacancies in schools ranging from the Big 10, Pac-12 Conference or the SEC.

Given the notoriety of the No. 6/7 Cougars (12-0, 8-0 C-USA), athletic directors will look at head coach Kevin Sumlin as the man to restore their respective programs.

His leadership in making a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference dominant is just another milestone in a young but accomplished coaching career.

He has proven to be a coach who has a solid relationship with the media, and he shows class no matter how successful his team is.

When UH is dominating an opponent by 30 or more points, Sumlin does not put the offense into high gear — the tempo slows down, and the Cougars do not run up the score or keep their starters in for the whole game.

A successful season like this will make high school players want to play at UH, and being recruited by Sumlin and his staff could become something that local kids will dream about.

Just realize that he might not finish his coaching career draped in red and white.

Some offers are too hard to refuse, and fans should not feel too betrayed if he bolts for a better contract — you would probably do the same thing too in your profession.

There may be talented recruiting classes coming in, but interview offers are likely to be a reality very soon for Sumlin.

Art Briles was heavily criticized because he left for Baylor in 2007 after four seasons.

But that is what people do when they are given a chance to perform the same duties for an even higher salary — they look to greener pastures.

The Athletics Department needs to do whatever it takes to keep Sumlin at the University. Giving a raise to the talented group of assistant coaches around him should also be a priority.

Co-offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is also likely to receive interest from other schools.

His play-calling abilities have helped guide UH to the top of the NCAA in passing statistics.

Given his young age, he will likely be considered head coaching material in just a short matter of time.

The other offensive coordinator — Jason Phillips — and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart have also made themselves assets by developing their personnel.

Perhaps it is a sign that something is wrong with today’s society that college football coaches can become so vilified (see: Joe Paterno and Penn State).

But if he chooses to stay, Sumlin could have all the spoils of being the biggest man on campus. Buildings and statues named after him would adorn the University if he keeps UH on the path it appears to be headed in.

If Sumlin sticks around, he could have what every coach desires — a dynasty.

If he takes the job at Ole Miss or UCLA, he will have a huge payday, but he will also have a short time to make significant strides before he gets put in the hotseat.

He could be what Bill Yeoman and Guy V. Lewis were to the University. A long, successful career at the helm of the Cougars would make him like UH royalty.

Arizona State, Illinois, North Carolina and UCLA are all potential suitors for Sumlin, and of course there is the chance other coaches will get the axe as well.

The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that Sumlin and Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades have already entered preliminary discussions to renegotiate Sumlin’s contract.

This is a promising start. But Sumlin’s name on the college football coaching carousel comes at an inconvenient time.

Sumlin and the Cougars are preparing for the biggest game of the season — the C-USA Championship against Southern Miss on Saturday.

He would tell you that is his top priority at this minute, not out-of-state job opportunities.

If UH wins, it will be in line for a BCS bowl. During the crucial weeks of extra bowl game preparation, the rumor mill could continue to grow, and one can only hope those distractions are kept at bay.

And if Sumlin does choose to leave Houston, it is not a doomsday scenario for UH — this program has shown plenty of resilience before.

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