-- HOOVER, Ala. -- More than a month after Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward publicly said that head coach Kevin Sumlin "has to do better than he has done in the past," Sumlin responded by agreeing with his boss.
"We all want the same thing, and I came here to do a job and win a championship, and we haven't done that yet," Sumlin said. "That being said, we've won more games than anyone [at Texas A&M] in the last 20 years. Are we better at Texas A&M than when I got here? You bet. Is it where we want to be? No.
"Nobody puts more pressure on me than I put on myself and nobody wants to win more than I want to. Whatever's said, whatever the conversation, whatever's written, it's not going to affect how I do my job. It's not going to affect my day-to-day operation."
Appearing on The Paul Finebaum Show at SEC spring meetings in late May, Woodward was very blunt in his assessment of Sumlin following the Aggies' third straight 8-5 season.
"Coach Sumlin knows he has to win," Woodward said. "He has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past."
In five seasons as Texas A&M's coach, Sumlin, 52, has gone 44-21, but has an SEC record of 21-19. Sumlin debuted with an 11-2 record with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2012, but has yet to finish better than fourth in the SEC Western Division in the last four years.
In the last three seasons, the Aggies have gone 5-0, 5-0 and 6-0, only to finish 8-5 each year. In the last four seasons, Texas A&M has posted a 7-9 record in the month of November. The Aggies were ranked sixth in the nation following a 6-0 start last year, but ended the season losing to 33-28 to Kansas State in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl.
"We're not giving any excuses, and that starts with me," Sumlin said. "We want to be a top-10 team. We want to be a championship team. The things that we've done ... to figure out how to get to that next level, we're doing.
"My job is to fix it. It's not about talking about it. The biggest sign in our building says 'no excuses' and it's our job to get it fixed, and that's what we're doing."
Financially, cutting ties with Sumlin following the 2017 would be pricey for Texas A&M. Sumlin has three years left on his six-year contract, which pays him about $5 million per season. According to Sumlin's contract, the school would owe him his $10 million buyout that would have to be paid within 60 days of his termination if he were to be fired after the 2017 season.
Sumlin was very calm when talking about his situation and even equated the pressure he feels going into his sixth season with the Aggies to when his first coaching job as a wide receivers coach at Wyoming in 1991 was threatened by head coach Joe Tiller because of his receivers' inability to catch the football.
"There was as much pressure there just to survive as there is right now," Sumlin said with a laugh. "Like I told them, 'You better start catching the damn ball.' It's the same approach from my first year as a full time coach as there is now."
Sumlin's climb back toward the top of the SEC West only gets tougher when you consider just 12 starters return and the Aggies must replace All-American defensive end Myles Garrett, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns in this year's NFL draft, and quarterback Trevor Knight, who guided Texas A&M to its 6-0 start and finished the year with 3,046 total yards of offense and 29 total touchdowns.
Still, Sumlin is confident that he has the pieces A&M to turn things around in 2017.
"I know that we're doing the things that we need to do to be better and I would not be surprised if the results don't prove that out," he said.