Even before the Nov. 27 football game between Texas A&M University and LSU, there was little reason to think that Mark Snyder would remain in his position as the Texas Aggies Defensive Coordinator beyond this season. There was no doubt that today’s announcement that Snyder was relieved of his duties would be forthcoming on the heels of the Aggies’ Thanksgiving Day loss to LSU, by the score of 23-17.
The loss to the Tigers was the last straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in terms of finding a solid reason to explain away a disappointing football season, particularly following the Aggies’ loss to the University of Missouri, the first of the series of at-home losses that all but sealed Snyder’s fate, as the defensive players simply failed to contain the Missouri Tigers. Missouri had entered the game converting only 40% of its third down tries but ran over the Aggies and made 62% of their third down tries. That’s on the defense, no excuses. Snyder’s final statement was classy, as would be expected:
I appreciate the opportunity Kevin Sumlin gave me to come to Texas A&M and to work on his staff,” Snyder said. “I have been in the business a while now and understand it is a production-based business.”
Snyder remains an extended part of the Texas A&M family, saying: “I have no doubt Coach Sumlin and the coaches and players will get the job done here,” Snyder added. “There is a great commitment to success in Aggieland and this community has been great to me and my family. I am proud one of my daughters has an Aggie Ring and will graduate from this outstanding school.”
Before all football failings are placed on Snyder’s porch steps, however, it’s important to remember what some folks might otherwise wish would be forgotten. In April this year defensive end Gavin Stansbury and safety Howard Matthews were arrested for outstanding warrants, among others who were also arrested (Ricky Seals-Jones, Kenny Hill) before the season started.
In Feb. 2014, linebacker Darian Claiborne was arrested on a noise violation and lineman Isaiah Golden was arrested on drug charges. Another football player was in the car when that bust went down, but was only detained. One year ago, freshman defensive back Kenneth Marshall turned himself in to College Station Police for drug possession. In July 2013, Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven were arrested for assault after a disagreement at a local bar moved to an apartment complex later that night.
Thus the challenge faces any defensive coordinator and his staff to take a troubled, spotty, iffy level of football players committed to the completion of their obligations as student athletes and try to get them to focus on, and off, the field. Just try to build a defensive unit that will get off to a slow start because a few players are missing a game, or two, but not three, due to suspensions for violation of team rules and policies, and oh yes, city and/or state laws. How much did Snyder have to work with to build a solid defense? Some of the best plays made on defense this season actually came from some of those who have their photos on a mug shot in addition to the glossy football program books.
The Aggies have event managed to acquire sufficient wins to qualify for a bowl game, although the Aggie friends and fans who watched last night’s game were musing that it might as well be “The Toilet Bowl.” That’s simply reflective of how so many people feel about the status and stature of Texas A&M in the SEC and on the national scene.
Some of this was entirely Texas A&M’s fault for raising hopes and expectations far too high after three football games. Beginning with the need to nickname Kenny Hill anything but his given name, just because he broke one of the former quarterback’s records, the buzz started. Then Hill broke another of the former quarterback’s records and the pressure to come up with a nickname intensified, and “Kenny Trill” was born. When the Aggies beat South Carolina, all the Heisman hype started ramping up (again).
And it was not entirely unpredictable then that the pressure would get to Kenny Hill. Someone or something got to Hill and he went down for the count this season after suspension for two games for the old saw “violation of team rules and policies.” What’s maddening is that the buzz around town proclaiming Hill’s ruination and demise is entirely his fault.
That’s what happens to any talented athlete at A&M who can no longer be of use to the family of fans who wishes to claim “you” as “theirs”—no one wins, particularly the athlete. Anyone who doubts that can examine the career of the Aggies’ recent Heisman Trophy winner during the five snaps of his professional NFL career and see how far the Aggies have distanced themselves from claiming “him” as “theirs.”
This is so, particularly coinciding with all the never-ending bad publicity surrounding the antics of the young man, and former hero, who lives for the limelight. There’s every reason to expect that Hill watched the Aggie “starmaker machinery” embracing Kyle Allen with gusto, while disavowing themselves of the player who is now known as “the troubled, young Hill.”
Two months ago, Kenny Hill was the savior and today he’s old news. Hill could conceivably announce his transfer to a school next season to a school that will cherish his arrival, change up his decision-making skills, and likely go on to a superb college and ultimate pro career. In fact, he should do exactly that if he wants to avoid the intermittent dropout of the banner of fandom that Aggie football fans drape over their anointed heroes du jour.
As of today, Aggies head football coach Kevin Sumlin announced Texas A&M linebacker coach Mark Hagan will serve as the interim defensive coordinator prior to the (someone or other) bowl game. At some point along the way, Texas A&M will hire a new defensive coordinator, and of course the name Will Muschamp is being bandied about, but you never know until you hear an official announcement.
Before anyone considers accepting the job as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, they’d better think long and hard about who is doing the recruiting and who is doing due diligence on the prospective recruits for the coming seasons. Are their policies and skills in discerning character of the prospective Aggies on target or are they overwhelmed with who and what they can become “with a little bit of tweaking and ignoring some character weaknesses” as they clearly have in the past few years? The Aggies deserve the best players, not the ones who are as troubled as they are talented in understanding what the rules are, all day, every day.
Even the best defensive coordinator in America cannot build a wall of steel to stop the best offenses in the SEC out of a collective of underage adults who behave as children. When the only punishment is the one- or two-game suspension for failure to follow school policies, what do you have but sure-fire chaos?
Until each one of Texas A&M’s coaches become rule enforcers without exception, then it cannot expect anything more than the Toilet Bowl nods in the coming years. Head coach Kevin Sumlin knows what he’s doing. And while Sumlin was obligated to cut ties with Snyder, he of all people knows that Snyder was not the entire problem, and not the cause of the problem with the Aggie defense.
Snyder will land on his feet, and Sumlin agreed, noting “Mark is an outstanding coach and an even better person, but he understands the production needed to be better on the defensive side of the football. We wish he and his family all of the best moving forward.”