Slocum fired as Texas A&M coach

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M fired R.C. Slocum on Monday, ending the 14-year tenure of the winningest football coach in Aggie history.

Despite a victory over then-No. 1 Oklahoma, the Aggies finished a disappointing 6-6 in the regular season, capped by a 50-20 loss to Texas on Friday.

Slocum, who never had a losing season, had a record of 123-47-2 for a .715 winning percentage that was second only to D.X. Bible, who had a .765 winning percentage in 1917 and from 1919-28.

But A&M fans were disgruntled that the Aggies have become less competitive in the Big 12 South -- their 3-5 finish was their first losing record in league play since 1984.

"It was with great sadness and disappointment that I learned today that I was being fired as the head football coach at Texas A&M," Slocum said in a prepared statement.

"We had a season where we lost several close games that could have gone either way and no one was more disappointed than me with our record. However, we have some really outstanding young players and I felt our future was bright," he said.

Slocum was 21-15 over the past three seasons, losing at least four games each year. In the 10 seasons previous, A&M lost as many as four games only twice. Slocum also lost three straight to Texas.

Slocum won four conference championships, including the Big 12 title in 1998. This 6-6 mark matched his worst with the Aggies -- A&M last went 6-6 in 1996.

In a statement, the school said A&M President Robert M. Gates asked Slocum to step down as head football coach Monday and assume the role of special adviser to the president.

"Coach Slocum is one of the most respected and admired members of the Aggie family, and he has much still to offer the university he has served so long with rare integrity and skill," Gates said.

Texas A&M regents chairman Earl Nye said Slocum would coach the Aggies if they receive a bowl bid.

"I believe the understanding is he would coach through any bowl," Nye said. "If you name somebody tomorrow, it would make sense for (Slocum) to take them out (on the field) and to leave the new coach to recruit."

Slocum, 58, is in the fourth year of a seven-year deal he signed in 1999 worth $1 million annually, including a base salary of $300,000.

The rest of the package was to come from radio and television programs, a housing allowance, cars, a country club membership and shoe contract.

Nye denied the regents played a role in Slocum's firing.

"There was no polling, no meeting," Nye said.

"I think he (Gates) simply got into a conversation with the coach today, and I think R.C. wanted to know where he stood, and Bob Gates is too honorable a person not to tell the truth."

While at A&M, Slocum helped clean up a program that had landed on probation twice since the late 1980s and won a Big 12 title in 1998.

Slocum's stay also was tinged with tragedy.

Four days before the final loss to Texas, Aggies freshman defensive lineman Brandon Fails died after collapsing in his dorm.

Preliminary autopsy reports showed Fails died from a blood clot that formed as result of a leg injury and eventually traveled to his lungs.

And in 1999, before its big game against rival Texas, the log stack for the university's traditional bonfire collapsed, killing 12 people and injuring 27.

Slocum told players of his dismissal at a team meeting earlier Monday.

"I'm disappointed. He's a great guy and a great football coach and I hate to see that happen to him," senior linebacker Brian Gamble said. "The guy has been a father figure for me for four, almost five years. To see him go is really disheartening."

Slocum had been a part of A&M's football operations all but one year since 1972, when he joined Emory Bellard's A&M staff as offensive end coach. Slocum spent two years as a freshman coach at Kansas State before that.

Since a 30-26 win over top-ranked Oklahoma, the Aggies lost in double overtime to Missouri, and closed the regular season with the big loss to Texas.

"Although disappointed with Dr. Gates' decision, I do recognize that the university has the right to decide who coaches the team," Slocum said. "I have spent 30 years of my life here and have deep feelings for Aggieland. I will cherish the memories of my many relationships over the years with the students and former students of this university.

Slocum was picked as A&M's defensive coordinator under Tom Wilson in 1979. In 1981, he left to be defensive coordinator at Southern California but returned to A&M the following year when Jackie Sherrill became the Aggies' new coach. Slocum succeeded Sherrill in 1988.

The Orange, Texas, native played college football at McNeese State, where he was a record-setting tight end.

"I especially will cherish the time that I spent with all of the wonderful young men in our program and with their families. I have been honored to be called coach by them, and to share in their lives. Also, I have great respect and genuine gratitude for all the outstanding coaches that I was privileged to work with during my time here," he said.

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