Texas A&M coaching search: Mike Elko tapped to replace Jimbo Fisher as Aggies hire ex-defensive coordinator

A highly eventful Texas A&M coaching search reached its end Monday with the Aggies hiring Duke's Mike Elko as their next coach. Elko replaces Jimbo Fisher, who was fired on Nov. 12 amid his sixth season at the helm, and returns to the program where he previously worked as the defensive coordinator under Fisher from 2018-21 before leaving to coach the Blue Devils. 

When Texas A&M fired Fisher earlier this month, we knew we were in for a wild ride as the Aggies began a search for a new coach. Given the vast resources and wealth at the school's disposal, the move to pony up the large buyout to part ways with Fisher created one of the more compelling coaching searches in recent memory. 

Sure enough, the Texas A&M coaching search wasn't short on drama. In the wake of big names being thrown around as possible candidates throughout the past few weeks, it seemed the Aggies had locked down the man they believed could lead the program to new heights ... until they didn't. Not long after reports surfaced late Saturday that Kentucky coach Mark Stoops would presumably be taking over at Texas A&M, a move which drew backlash from the Aggies fanbase, Stoops announced that he would be staying at his current gig in Lexington, Kentucky. 

However, Texas A&M quickly found its guy, with reports of Elko emerging as a top candidate for the job Sunday before the hire was finalized Monday. Not only is Elko a familiar face in Aggieland, but what he did at Duke can't be overlooked. Elko quickly turned the Blue Devils around in 2022, guiding the program to nine wins -- including a bowl victory -- in his debut. While Duke went 7-5 during the 2023 regular season, the Blue Devils started 5-1 and recorded a stunning upset of Clemson in Week 1. Now, Elko steps into the shoes of his old boss in College Station, Texas, with the Aggie brass hopeful he's the one who can finally field a consistent winner in the SEC era for the program. 

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Mike Elko returns to lead Aggies 

Texas A&M has hired Duke's Mike Elko as its next football coach, the school announced on Monday. The former Aggies defensive coordinator emerged as the top choice, sources told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, one day after a pending deal between Texas A&M and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops reportedly fell apart.

"Coach Mike Elko is one of the best leaders and coaches in college football and has had high-level success at each stop of his career," Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. "He is known amongst coaching circles as one of the best defensive minds in the country and has shown his ability to lead and turn around a program as a Power 5 head coach."

Read more below for takeaways as Texas A&M turns to Elko to lead the program. 

Texas A&M hires Mike Elko: Aggies bring back former defensive boss after successful run leading Duke
Shehan Jeyarajah
Texas A&M hires Mike Elko: Aggies bring back former defensive boss after successful run leading Duke
 
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Mark Stoops stays put

As mentioned, Stoops emerged as a top target for the Aggies job with everyone expecting we'd be spending our Sunday wondering how he would pan out as Texas A&M coach. The backlash from fans was immediate, however, and not long after the reports surfaced Stoops confirmed he would remain on as coach of the Wildcats program. 

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops decides to stay with Wildcats after emerging as Texas A&M's top target
Shehan Jeyarajah
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops decides to stay with Wildcats after emerging as Texas A&M's top target

So now, the search continues ...

November 26, 2023, 3:38 PM
Nov. 26, 2023, 10:38 am EST
 
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Aggies interview Traylor

One of the hottest names in the college football coaching landscape is UTSA's Jeff Traylor. Considering the success he's had in turning around the Roadrunners program, that's no surprise. In four seasons he's led UTSA to a 38-14 record, including back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2021 and 2022. Traylor and the Roadrunners just completed an 8-4 season in their first year as a member of the American. 

Traylor's most notable qualification for Texas A&M, to many, are his deep ties to Texas football. A former Texas high school coach, his relationships with coaches across the state cannot be ignored as the Aggies look to win the recruiting battles. 

Last week, Traylor was interviewed for the position by AD Ross Bjork. 

Texas A&M interviews UTSA's Jeff Traylor for coaching vacancy as Aggies seek to replace Jimbo Fisher
Dean Straka
Texas A&M interviews UTSA's Jeff Traylor for coaching vacancy as Aggies seek to replace Jimbo Fisher
November 26, 2023, 3:36 PM
Nov. 26, 2023, 10:36 am EST
 
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How about a Dan who's familiar with the culture? 

We knew some interesting names would surface as Texas A&M began this search. One name that stood out above most others, however, was former Aggies star and current Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell. Turning around one of the most historically downtrodden franchises in NFL history, Campbell has quickly become one of the most respected coaches in the game as the Lions currently sit at 8-3 in the 2023 season. 

Campbell, however, made it clear he's not interested in trying to turn around his alma mater. 

Lions coach Dan Campbell was 'maybe' approached by Texas A&M, but isn't interested in Aggies' open position
David Cobb
Lions coach Dan Campbell was 'maybe' approached by Texas A&M, but isn't interested in Aggies' open position
November 26, 2023, 3:21 PM
Nov. 26, 2023, 10:21 am EST
 
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Dan Lanning shoots down rumors

One of the early names to pop up as a potential top target was Oregon coach Dan Lanning. And why wouldn't he instantly emerge near the top of the list. Lanning has guided the Ducks to a 21-4 record since taking over in Eugene last season. They're currently No. 6 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, and with a win in the Pac-12 title game next weekend, are in prime position for a CFP berth as a one-loss conference champion. 

Lanning, however, had other ideas. Ahead of Oregon's landmark move to the Big Ten in the 2024 season, Lanning made it crystal clear that he will be staying on to lead the Ducks program into the future. 

Oregon's Dan Lanning shoots down potential interest in Texas A&M coaching job: 'I'm not going anywhere'
Cameron Salerno
Oregon's Dan Lanning shoots down potential interest in Texas A&M coaching job: 'I'm not going anywhere'
November 26, 2023, 3:18 PM
Nov. 26, 2023, 10:18 am EST
 
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Early candidates for Texas A&M job

Upon Fisher's ouster, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd compiled a list of potential candidates to take over the charge in College Station, Texas. Some of the names on the list from earlier this month have already removed themselves from consideration, while others are still in play in the wake of Stoops not taking the job. 

Read more below to have a look at potential candidates for the Texas A&M coaching job. 

Texas A&M coaching candidates: Mike Elko, Dan Lanning, Lane Kiffin among options to replace Jimbo Fisher
Dennis Dodd
Texas A&M coaching candidates: Mike Elko, Dan Lanning, Lane Kiffin among options to replace Jimbo Fisher
November 26, 2023, 3:14 PM
Nov. 26, 2023, 10:14 am EST

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