Marriage Made in Heaven or Divorce Court; Jury Still Out

Lyn Scarbrough

September 26, 2023 at 4:18 pm.

There was a television game show, “The Newlywed Game,” started on-air in 1966, initially hosted by Bob Eubanks. The aim of the show was to see if partners in their first year of marriage were on the same page.

There was another television show, “Divorce Court,” originated in 1957, initially presided over by Voltaire Perkins. The aim of this show was to determine fault or settle disagreements in a marriage and recommend if couples should stay together.

College football’s version of these two shows is playing out in College Station, Texas, this season. Back in January, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, who was coming off a rocky 2022 losing season, hired as his new offensive coordinator former head coach Bobby Petrino, who was carrying around a rocky resume.

Fisher was head coach at Florida State for eight seasons. He moved from Tallahassee to College Station before the 2018 season, accepting a 10-year, $75 million dollar contract making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the sport. In his first five seasons at the head of the Aggie program, his team’s SEC record was 23-18. With the exception of the 2020 COVID season, every Fisher-coached team has lost at least three conference games.

Last season, the team lost six league games, finished 5-7 overall and failed to play in a postseason bowl game for the first time in his tenure. During the season, the team lost six consecutive games, the first time the program had suffered that in 50 years (1972).

It’s safe to say that a large percentage of A&M alums and fans haven’t been excited about the five-year results so far.

Petrino got his first head coaching job in 2003. In the next 20 years, he was the head man at Louisville, the Atlanta Falcons, Arkansas, Western Kentucky, Louisville (again!) and Missouri State with a combined record of 137-71. His NFL record was 3-10 before he resigned midway through his only season. During his head coaching career, at multiple programs his performance, on and especially off the field, has been questioned by players, fans, employers and law authorities.

It’s safe to say that a large percentage of A&M alums and fans weren’t excited about the hiring. But, the two coaches are longtime friends, so most with Aggie connections have been willing to give the new coaching partnership a chance to succeed.

So far, it would be hard to know if this will prove to be a marriage made in Heaven or one that was hellish from the start.

Results this season so far would generate a hung jury.

The campaign opened with a big win over New Mexico, then two weeks later over Louisiana-Monroe, by a combined 99-13 margin. But consider that the Lobos have already lost by double digits to in-state rival New Mexico State. UL-Monroe does have two wins, but those were home victories over Army and Lamar.

In between, the three-point favorite Aggies lost to the unranked Miami Hurricanes on national television by 15 points. Texas A&M was ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, while Miami didn’t receive a single vote.

Before the game with Auburn on Saturday, a random sampling from Aggie fans didn’t yield a consensus opinion favoring the marriage.

“I haven’t been impressed with Jimbo from the time he came here,” said one young man waiting for the hotel elevator. “We haven’t been great since he got here, so why not try something new?

His female companion, decked out in maroon and white with dangling cowboy boot earrings, shook her head in agreement.

“Two good Saturdays so far, one not so good,” said a lady wearing a maroon “Gig ‘Em” shirt, appearing to be a longtime Aggies fan. “Isn’t that what we always get?”

“Do you think we’ve gotten a good return on this investment?” asked a guy sort of looking like a banker, who obviously had expected more for the millions.

The closest thing to a consensus answer came from a younger guy drinking a beer with some buddies outside the stadium.

“We never know what to expect,” he said. “Can you ask me about that after this game?”

Of course, I couldn’t do that. But, if it had happened, I suspect he and most Aggie faithful would have had the same answer. “After that game, the jury is still out.”

That response would be understandable. The Aggies, the home favorite, did defeat Auburn, 27-10. So, that was moving in the right direction. But, the performance wasn’t championship caliber.

Texas A&M did lead at intermission, 6-3, but neither team had offensive success, both with under 122 yards total offense. Throughout the game, both teams were sloppy. Key offensive plays for both teams were called back by penalties. On the positive side, after A&M starting quarterback Conner Weigman was injured, back-up Max Johnson threw for two second half touchdowns, which provided the margin of victory.

The Aggie defense was impressive, holding the Tigers to 200 yards total offense with only two yards of offense in the third quarter when the game was lost. Auburn quarterbacks completed just nine of 23 passes and were sacked seven times.

Aggies defenders were helped by Tiger quarterbacks’ inaccuracy. Twice Auburn had receivers uncovered, once down the Tiger sideline, the other at full speed down the middle of the field … both likely touchdowns … but both times passes were almost laughingly overthrown.

So, what comes next for the Aggies, for the Jimbo-Petrino jury to consider?

None of the next five games will be an automatic win … Arkansas in Arlington, Alabama in College Station, Tennessee in Knoxville, South Carolina in College Station, and Ole Miss in Oxford. And, don’t forget the season ending game in Baton Rouge against a Tiger team that will remember its loss in College Station to end last season.

At this point, how many of those look like sure wins for the Aggies? None from my perspective. But then, that same number looks like a game that will be an impossible win for Jimbo and Bobby.

How will this marriage work? We’ll find out over the next couple of months.

Based on what happened at Kyle Field on Saturday, I’m probably leaning more toward the newlyweds than toward Divorce Court.

But, I always did like Bob Eubanks smile more than watching Voltaire Perkins.

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