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Elko’s World: Aggies react to new head coach

Texas+A%26amp%3BM+Head+Coach+Mike+Elko+speaks+to+the+audience+for+the+first+time+since+his+hiring+at+the+Kyle+Field+Hall+of+Champions+on+Monday%2C+Nov.+27%2C+2023.+%28Chris+Swann%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Chris Swann/The Battalion

Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Elko speaks to the audience for the first time since his hiring at the Kyle Field Hall of Champions on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

Editor’s note: This story has been changed and corrected to reflect factual errors. Sophomore wide receiver Evan Stewart has not made any comment about entering the NCAA transfer portal as of Thursday, Nov. 30. 

Texas A&M officially hired Mike Elko on Monday, Nov. 27, to fill the head football coach position after firing Jimbo Fisher. Current students shared their opinions on the Fisher firing, Elko hiring and the future of Aggie football.

A&M decided to part ways with Fisher following a discussion between A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork and Interim President Mark A. Welsh III. Civil engineering senior Ben Walford said he was originally shocked hearing the news but thought it was the right decision.

“I was a little bit surprised, but I understood and hoped that there was a plan moving forward and that the football team could get back on track,” Walford said.

On the contrary, sport management senior Austin Hebert said he had a feeling before the season started that A&M would replace Fisher.

“Since August, I had been saying to my friends and family that if Jimbo doesn’t work out, I want him out and I want Mike Elko back,” Hebert said. “Sure enough, we settled on Mike Elko. I think it’s the perfect decision.”

During his time as Duke football coach, Elko turned the Blue Devils around.  In 2022, he earned the ACC coach of the year award after a 9-4 season following an antithetical 3-9 season in 2021. The ACC is not the SEC however. Biomedical science senior Anna Schneider said Elko has fierce competition ahead of him.

“He’ll have to work very hard to learn the dynamic of a new team and get to know his players, but also have the immense pressure to do it fast before the [University of Texas] game with huge expectations from us,” Schneider said.

Since joining the SEC, the Aggies have won 10 or more games in only one season. The Aggies open next season against Notre Dame and will finish the season with its reinstated rivalry game against the University of Texas. With a challenging season opener, season finale and conference slate, next year’s schedule will be Elko’s first test as head coach, Walford said.

“He definitely has a very tough year ahead of him, just with it being his first year and the way the season is coming together,” Walford said. “I’m not sure how our record will end up, but I’m hoping for a good season nonetheless.”

The challenging schedule adds on to the lofty expectations for Elko. In the Nov. 28 press conference, Bjork said A&M should be in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot each season.

In the same press conference, Elko said A&M has the resources to be a championship program and he will develop the program’s staff in the coming weeks. This will be Elko’s key to success, Hebert said.

“Coaching staff is going to be a big factor,” Hebert said. “If I could pick the most important one it would be the offensive line coach because our offensive line has been miserable for the last two or three years. Recruiting, coaching and developing those players is going to be key, especially next year.”
With the talent A&M has and the improvements Elko should make to the program, Hebert said the Aggies have the potential to win a double-digit number of games in the regular season.

“Assuming that we’re going to drop two [games] somewhere in the season, I’d be happy if we went in 4-1 under a new head coach to start next year,” Hebert said. “That’s with improvement moving on, the talent that we can bring in and the talent that we have. I think our ceiling is probably 10-2, but there’s really no telling what’s going to happen in the next couple of months.”

Unfortunately, A&M won’t retain as much talent as the program hoped, as quarterback Max Johnson declared he will enter the transfer portal. Additionally, as of Nov. 28, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has officially left for a position at Arkansas. Elko will retain former interim coach Elijah Robinson, but who else may the Aggies lose on the field and on the sideline?
There are high hopes for the Aggies to become the esteemed bowl-contending team they were in years past. The firing of Fisher is the end of an era, but the start of a new, uncertain world: Elko’s World.

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