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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Decisions that defined A&M in 2012: No. 2

By Sam Khan Jr.

This week, GigEmNation looks back at five decisions that helped define Texas A&M's 2012 season. These moments could be on or off the field or could have even come before the season, so long that they had a lasting impact on the Aggies' 2012 campaign. Today, we look at our pick for No. 2, the hiring of Kevin Sumlin.

On Dec. 10, 2011, Texas A&M officially chose Kevin Sumlin as its next head football coach.

With a new conference membership on tap, it was the up-and-coming Sumlin who was tabbed as the man to lead the Aggies into their new era. He went 35-17 at Houston, guided the Cougars to several wins over ranked teams, took them into the top 10 and to the cusp of a BCS bowl appearance.

And while there may have been a few that wondered if Sumlin could successfully make the transition from winning in Conference USA to guiding a program in the nation's toughest conference, the Southeastern Conference, there aren't likely any doubters that remain.

As many have said throughout the year, Sumlin has changed the culture in Aggieland.

Kevin Sumlin
Kevin Sumlin brought the Aggies 11 wins in his debut season and has made Texas A&M football trendy again.
A team that many thought wouldn't win more than seven games, or might even be fortunate to go to a bowl game, went 11-2 and dominated Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Aggies knocked off the BCS champions, Alabama, on its home field and went undefeated on the road. They finished with their highest win total since 1998.

Sumlin has instilled confidence in a team that coughed up six double-digit leads in 2011. He has brought energy to the football program and charisma to recruiting, hiring a staff that has produced the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the nation.

Many Aggies might have been happy with seven or eight wins and a bowl game this season. Now, some are talking about contending for a BCS title in 2013.

He hires quality people. Four coaches who were once assistants for him -- Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tony Levine (Houston) and Brian Polian (Nevada) have gone on to head coaching jobs elsewhere. That's in only five years as a head coach.

His handling of redshirt freshman quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel turned out to be a positive for Texas A&M. Sticking with his rule of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media, Sumlin kept Manziel away from reporters and the pressure of countless questions until after the regular season was complete. Whether you agreed with it or not, it was effective for the Heisman Trophy winner and the Aggies.

He has a high level of respect from peers in his profession as well as on the recruiting trail.

"Kevin Sumlin is a great guy," said Randy Rodgers, who runs a long-established scouting service in Texas and works with dozens of Division I football coaches. "Everybody likes him. He's a positive, high-energy guy. I can't think of anybody that I can think of that's ever said a bad word about Kevin Sumlin."