The only thing left now is an announcement.
Former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin landed in a private plane at a College Station, Texas, airport Thursday afternoon, seemingly proving he has made the stunning jump to the Aggies.
A&M hasn’t officially announced the move, but Chavis and Sumlin spoke to the Houston Chronicle after exiting the plane on New Year’s Day. Already, the move has spiced up the budding rivalry between the programs.
“I’m excited to play with a great offense,” Chavis said, according to the Chronicle.
Entering Thursday’s bowl games, LSU’s offense in 2014 was ranked 77th nationally. The unit was shut out at Arkansas, failed to score more than 13 points in three other games and struggled at quarterback. The Tigers’ I-formation, run-heavy system is a far cry from A&M’s high-tempo, pass-heavy spread attack that has been so potent at times.
“Certainly we’ve looked at A&M and the things that are happening here, and there’s a great opportunity to win — and win big,” Chavis said, according to the Chronicle.
Rumblings of Chavis’ departure began more than a week ago. The Advocate reported Dec. 21 that he had not signed a contract extension from LSU and that A&M had reached out to him. Talks picked up between the sides earlier this week.
LSU coach Les Miles and Chavis met Tuesday night in a long and “emotional” conversation, a source said, in which the coach made one last pitch to keep the 58-year-old assistant known as “Chief.” The meeting came in the team hotel in Nashville, Tennessee — hours after the 31-28 loss to Notre Dame, a game in which Chavis’ defense allowed 449 yards, including a 71-yard drive that ended in a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Miles and Chavis leave on “great” terms, a source said.
According to multiple sources, Chavis was upset by a clause in a three-year, $4 million new contract ($1.33 million per year) the Tigers had extended to him. The clause stipulated that it would pay him just six months of compensation if Miles is no longer head coach at LSU.
Several sources told The Advocate over the past 24 hours that Miles and LSU backers attempted to “fix” the contract and keep Chavis. In the Tuesday meeting with Miles, Chavis was offered a raise to more than $1.5 million, a source said.
“It was too late,” said the source, who’s close to the coach.
A search for Chavis’ replacement is in the early stages, but the process likely will move fast. The recruiting dead period ends Jan. 15, at which point LSU will begin hosting prospects leading up to National Signing Day, set for Feb. 4.
A host of names has emerged for a job that’s arguably one of the most prestigious of any defensive coordinator position in college football. All of the hot names are possibilities, including former Georgia defensive coordinator and Louisville coordinator Todd Grantham, current Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele and former Southern Cal defensive line coach and ex-Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron.
Interest in the job is high, a source said, so dozens of candidates are possible. At least one possible candidate appears to be out: Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik accepted the job as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator Thursday, according to ESPN.com.
A&M is giving Chavis a three-year, $5 million deal ($1.67 million per year) with a fourth-year option, according to FootballScoop.com. According to one source, Chavis will make $1.5 million in his first year at A&M.
Chavis joins a program that has struggled defensively the past several years. He brings with him a history of success: Chavis’ past four defenses at LSU have finished in the top 15 nationally, and the 2014 group ended the regular season ranked first in the Southeastern Conference in yards allowed.
Miles became emotional when speaking about Chavis after Tuesday’s bowl game.
“We understood he was unsigned. We understood why,” Miles said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’d like to pitch him again. We like Chief.”
The move adds fires to the rivalry between the Tigers and A&M, who already compete heavily on the recruiting trail. The squads began a yearly season-ending game this year, when LSU beat A&M 23-17 on Thanksgiving.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.