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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Column: A first-hand account of one of college football’s biggest hires

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Photo by Cassie Stricker

Former head football coach Kevin Sumlin was replaced by Jimbo Fisher in the fall of 2017. 

The eight days following A&M’s 45-21 loss to LSU were some of the most stressful yet useful real-world experiences an aspiring sports journalist could want.
I had driven to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with Battalion photo chief Cassie Stricker and staff photographer Meredith Seaver to cover the Aggies’ regular season finale against the Tigers.
In the week leading up to the game, there were multiple reports claiming that regardless of the outcome of the game, then-A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin would be fired.
Immediately after the loss, I remember Sumlin saying he had not spoken to administration about his job moving forward. However about 24 hours later, I got a text saying players were having a meeting, which only meant one thing — Sumlin was more than likely getting fired.
I immediately went into overdrive mode and started thinking of everything that needed to be covered to have the story ready by the time the official announcement was made. The only problem was I was driving, and we were stuck in post-thanksgiving traffic on I-10 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Cassie, who was in the passenger seat when I received the text, was taking a nap. My shriek of panic woke her up, and I asked her to pull out her laptop and start pre-writing a brief about Sumlin being fired.
At 2:45 p.m. we got the email confirming that Sumlin had been “relieved of his duties as the head football coach.” From there we used Wi-Fi hotspots to put the story online. Then it was a race back to College Station to put together a six-page newspaper detailing Sumlin’s time with the Aggies. The remainder of the drive was spent making phone calls to my staff and switching to the passenger seat so I could write a column and edit stories as they were coming in.
As we drove into town, we came straight to the The Battalion newsroom to make the final Sumlin-themed paper, which hit the stands the very next morning.
Over the next seven days, then-assistant sports editor Alex Miller and I followed every lead we could. Any little thing that came up about who our next coach would be, we were on the sight or writing something as soon as possible.
Everyone knew that A&M was looking for a coach that could win the Aggies a national championship. Rumors started to swirl that A&M’s athletic director Scott Woodward was looking at Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher.
On Nov. 30, 2017, the Texas A&M System Board of Regents held a special meeting for three hours to discuss “the hiring of a new football coach.”
The next morning, Twitter exploded after Fisher’s Christmas tree was seen thrown out on the curb in front of his Tallahassee home. Reporters started to speculate that the thrown-out tree was a sign that Fisher was resigning as FSU’s head coach.
Sure enough at around 12:30 p.m. that same day, Fisher informed the FSU administration that he would be leaving to become A&M’s next head coach.
The moment we learned that Fisher had resigned is one that I will remember forever. Alex and I were sitting in our newsroom retelling the events of the week on Periscope, when I got the notification Fisher had resigned. We had to cut the live stream to write the story.
Two days later, Fisher landed at Easterwood airport to the cadence of the Aggie War Hymn played by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and walked down the maroon carpet. Woodward and University President Michael K. Young accompanied Fisher.
Dec. 4, 2017 marked the start of a new era for Texas A&M. At 10 a.m. central time, Fisher was introduced as the Aggies’ head coach for the next 10 years.
Eight days was all it took for a student journalist to fully experience the rush that comes with following a national story. In the months since then, a lot of different stories have been written about Fisher’s first year. It was only fitting that Fisher’s first season as the A&M’s head coach just happened to be during The Battalion’s 125th year.
Angel Franco is a telecommunication senior and sports editor for The Battalion.

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  • Former head football coach Kevin Sumlin was replaced by Jimbo Fisher in the fall of 2017. 

    Photo by FILE

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