Troy needs a new head coach. Jon Sumrall is gone after accepting the Tulane job on Friday.
Sumrall took the Trojans to new heights, with a 23-4 record in two seasons and consecutive Sun Belt championships. Last year’s team finished ranked in the top 20, and this year’s team could also finish ranked with a bowl win.
“I would like to thank coach Jon Sumrall for his exemplary commitment to excellence these past two seasons leading our storied football program to back-to-back championships,” athletic director Brent Jones said. “Troy University, thanks to our incredible university leadership, has a proven track record of unwavering commitment to success and invests heavily in the development of our student-athletes.”
A lot’s changed since Sumrall took over after three consecutive 5-7 seasons. Troy is a program that expects to compete for championships, and Sumrall brought it back to that level. Troy made a strong offer to keep him, but he ultimately decided to leave for Tulane.
So how good is the Troy job? What names could get in the mix? Here are the factors to keep in mind.
It’s a winning program with fan support
Troy has been an FBS program since 2001, and it’s won at least a share of eight Sun Belt championships since 2006. Before that, the Trojans won two Division II national championships, in 1984 and 1987, and made three consecutive FCS playoff appearances before moving up to the FBS. This is a place that has experienced a lot of winning, and the next coach takes over a team coming off consecutive conference championships. While there is always work to do in the transfer portal era, this is the opposite of a rebuild.
The fan support is strong. Troy broke a school record with an average of 26,130 fans per home game this season. That comes after breaking the school’s season-ticket record last year. The fans show up, especially when the program is winning.
The facilities and investment continue to grow
Sumrall was already the highest-paid coach in the Sun Belt, and Troy had the highest assistant staff salary pool in the conference. It had offered Sumrall a new contract worth almost $1.4 million annually, according to a school source. Tulane was able to offer a lot more, and its program enjoyed similar success over the last two seasons. But that salary range and investment level make this job appealing to Power 5 coordinators.
In 2018, Troy opened a $24 million, 70,000-square-foot end zone facility, featuring a strength and conditioning center, training facilities, new locker rooms and more. Just this past Sunday, the school announced plans for a $10 million indoor practice facility. With that in place, Troy will have among the best facilities and infrastructure in the Sun Belt.
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Will experience at Troy be a factor?
Sumrall was a former Troy assistant before he came back as head coach. Before that, Chip Lindsey was a former Troy assistant before he came back as head coach. Before that, Neal Brown was a former Troy assistant before he came back as head coach. Are you sensing a trend?
Jones was promoted to the athletic director job in 2019 and hired Sumrall after Lindsey was fired after three seasons. That successful history has brought a lot of quality coaches through Troy. Will the next coach need the same kind of Troy experience?
So what names could get in the mix?
Based on conversations with industry sources, here are some potential coaches to watch.
Florida State offensive coordinator Alex Atkins was Tulane’s offensive line coach from 2006 through 2018. He continues to rise and has played an integral role in FSU’s turnaround and 13-0 record this season. At FSU, he inherited one of the worst offensive lines in the Power 5 and turned it into a very good group, and he added coordinator duties in 2022. Before FSU, he was Charlotte’s offensive coordinator in 2019, the only bowl season in program history. It’s possible Atkins could hold out for a Power 5 job.
Former UAB head coach Bill Clark retired in summer 2022 due to back issues, but some industry sources believe he’s ready to get back in. Clark spent more than a decade as an Alabama high school coach, then worked at South Alabama and Jacksonville State before becoming UAB’s head coach. He went 49-26 at UAB with two conference championships, most of that coming after the program was rebuilt from nothing after it was shut down. At Troy, the support and resources are already in place.
LSU quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan has turned Jayden Daniels into a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the Tigers have had one of the best offenses in the SEC in each of the last two seasons. Before LSU, Sloan was a Louisiana Tech assistant from 2013 through 2021.
Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach Tee Martin is an Alabama native who was in the mix for the South Alabama job a few years ago. He spent seven years as a USC assistant from 2012 through 2018, and there was some push for him to get the head coaching job. He was one of the best recruiters in the country as well. Martin has been with the Ravens since 2021, and he’s now the position coach for a former NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson. Martin may be focused on moving up in the NFL and sticking with a Ravens team poised to make the playoffs.
Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee knows the region extremely well. The former Georgia high school coach was a Georgia Southern assistant in 2014 and 2015, including a bowl stint as the interim head coach in 2015, which he won. Since he arrived at Georgia in 2016, the Bulldogs have had one of the strongest rushing attacks in the country and produced backs like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift and won the last two national championships.
Emerson: Georgia Tech (and others) should seriously consider Dell McGee
Former Alabama State and XFL head coach Reggie Barlow is an Alabama native with deep ties in the state. Most recently, he went 9-1 as head coach of the XFL’s DC Defenders and reached the league’s championship game. Before that, he was 34-16 as Virginia State’s head coach and 49-42 as Alabama State’s head coach.
Former Texas A&M running backs coach Tommie Robinson played on Troy’s 1984 national championship team and he’s coached at Texas A&M, LSU, USC and Texas over the last decade, once earning Pac-12 recruiter of the year honors. The 60-year-old’s contract at Texas A&M was not renewed after the 2022 season.
SMU offensive coordinator Casey Woods helped run one of the most explosive offenses in the country this season. The Mustangs are sixth nationally in scoring at 40.6 per game and won their first conference championship since 1984. Woods previously coached tight ends at Missouri and also worked at UAB and Auburn, so he’s familiar with the state.
Troy defensive coordinator/interim head coach Greg Gasparato inherited one of the best defenses in the country last offseason and lived up to the standard in his first season. The Trojans are 10th nationally in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game allowed. Gasparato has previously coached at Cincinnati, Army and Appalachian State.
Troy offensive coordinator Joe Craddock improved Troy’s offense in each of his two seasons on staff. The scoring increased from 22.8 points per game the year before he arrived to 25.6 last season and to 31.2 per game this season. Before Troy, the Alabama native was the tight ends coach at UAB and offensive coordinator at SMU and Arkansas under Chad Morris.
(Photo: Brandon Sumrall / Getty Images)