Mike Elko pegged as next head coach for Texas A&M

Duke athletics

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In the end, Texas A&M made the easy decision. The Aggies are expected to hire Duke’s Mike Elko to replace Jimbo Fisher, sources confirm to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Elko is 16-9 in two seasons as a collegiate head coach. His Blue Devils knocked off a top-10 ranked Clemson squad to start the season but limped to the finish line with a 7-5 record this year due to an injury at quarterback. Duke was 9-4 in his first season. 

Elko spent 2018 through 2021 as Fisher’s defensive coordinator. The Wrecking Crew posted the second-best rushing defense in the FBS in 2018 and 2020. His 2021 unit finished 20th in total defense and 19th against the pass. Elko was also a defensive coordinator at Bowling Green, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame. 

The Texas A&M job opened when the Aggies bought out Fisher and his $76 million dollar contract after three consecutive mediocre seasons after a strong 2020 finish. Fisher was 46-25 in six seasons at Texas A&M. He was 11-11 overall and 6-9 in the SEC over the last two seasons. He left a talented roster and a culture in need of repair. 

Fisher was 34-14 in his first four seasons with Elko as the defensive coordinator. The Aggies went 12-12 in the two years following Elko’s departure to Duke. They won at least eight games in each of the four seasons with Elko in College Station and didn’t manage more than seven wins in the two seasons without him. 

Texas A&M hasn’t fulfilled potential as a program. The influx of money thanks to foresight of joining the SEC and from the Johnny Manziel momentum put the Aggies at the adult’s table. They’ve simply lacked the leadership to capitalize. Sherman was .500 as a head coach. Sumlin was 51-26. The last coach at Texas A&M to win more than 70 percent of his games was R.C. Slocum. 

Winning in modern college football requires three things – money, recruiting landscape, and support. Texas A&M’s athletic revenue approaches $200 million dollars. Any program that can pay a coach $7.2 million a year not to coach has money. College Station is 90 minutes to Houston and two hours to Dallas. The current recruiting class ranks in the top 10 nationally despite the on-field struggles and lack of a head coach. And the support is unquestioned. The 12th Man put over 94,000 in the seats for the season finale against FCS program Abilene Christian. 

Texas A&M isn’t betting on potential. It is counting on promise. The Aggies should be in the same conversations as Alabama and Georgia and LSU. They don’t want to be passed up in the SEC pecking order by newcomers Texas and Oklahoma. The looming showdown with the Longhorns in 2024 was one of the key incentives that pushed Texas A&M to break up with Fisher. 

Elko knows Texas A&M. He knows the power brokers in the donor base and what is expected by the 12th Man. He also knows the roster. Behind the scenes, the Aggie brass is confident that the new coach is walking into a turnkey job. The roster is loaded and Elko’s familiarity with a lot of the faces in the locker room mean the Aggies could keep more of those playmakers out of the portal and on the team for 2024. 

The ride to the destination was not easy. Reports surfaced late Saturday night that Kentucky’s Mark Stoops was tabbed as the choice to replace Fisher but that fell apart, at least in part, due to public outrage as the news leaked. Elko was a name that was circled for the job from the very beginning. Elko isn't official, but sources say the decision should come within 24 hours. 

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