Elko introduced as Texas A&M head coach: 'Back where I belong'
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Mike Elko knows Texas A&M has been talking about winning its first national championship since 1939 for many, many years.
On the day he was introduced as the team’s new coach, the former Duke coach said those days are over.
“We are not going to talk about it anymore,” he said. “We are gonna be about it.”
Elko, who spent four years as defensive coordinator with the Aggies before taking his first head coaching job at Duke, replaces Jimbo Fisher, his former boss, who was fired Nov. 12 near the end of his sixth season.
Elko wore a maroon tie and donned a Texas A&M cap with his suit as he was introduced Monday. He beamed as he discussed his new job at a pep rally-style welcome complete with the school’s band and hundreds of fans.
“I’m back in Aggieland,” he said. "I’m back where I belong.”
After saying he was done talking about winning a national championship, he did indulge a couple of questions about why he thinks he can lead the Aggies to their first title in nearly a century.
“When you look at what this program is capable of, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to fulfill that potential,” Elko said. “That happens with work, and I think that was the message I sent to the players, that was the message I tried to deliver to the crowd. We can’t just say we want to be something. We can’t just say we want to arrive somewhere. We’ve got to be committed to all the work that it’s going to take from today until we kick off next September and there’s a lot that goes into that.”
Elko left the Aggies to take the job at Duke after the 2021 season and went 16-9 in two seasons. The Blue Devils had won just 10 games combined the three previous years.
Elko, who also had stints as defensive coordinator at Wake Forest and Notre Dame, led defenses that ranked in the top three of the Southeastern Conference in his final two seasons with A&M.
This season at Duke, Elko guided the Blue Devils to a 4-0 start, but they struggled after quarterback Riley Leonard was injured at the end of a close loss to Notre Dame. Duke finished 7-5.
Athletic director Ross Bjork said he consulted about 25 former Texas A&M football players during the search process to see what was important to them. Their comments, among other factors, led him to Elko.
“We got it right,” Bjork said. “Coach Mike Elko is a modern day and innovative football coach with a blue-collar mentality that fits perfectly here in Texas A&M.”
Bjork said they engaged with as many as 30 coaches on various levels during their search. He refused to answer directly when asked if Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was their first choice after reports surfaced Saturday night that the school was close to a deal with him.
“These things are fluid. … We were focused on let’s get it right,” Bjork said.
Elko received a seven-year, $42 million contract that runs through Jan. 31, 2030, that is subject to approval by the Texas A&M system board of regents. After paying a record $77 million buyout to Fisher, the Aggies mitigated their financial responsibility in Elko’s contract. If he is fired without cause with more than three years remaining in his contract, he will receive 75% of the contract and he’ll get 80% if less than three years are left.
The deal includes nine incentives, with five of them related to the College Football Playoff. These bonuses would total $10.5 million if he leads the Aggies to a national championship.
In addition, if he accomplishes any of the five postseason incentives, an extra year will be added to his contract.
His contract allocates $11 million for staff salaries.
Elko said he would get to work immediately to hire a staff, but noted that retaining Elijah Robinson would be a “huge priority.” Robinson was named interim coach after Fisher was fired.
Robinson will remain the team's coach for the bowl game before Elko officially takes over. The Aggies ended the regular season Saturday at 7-5 with a loss at LSU.
With the transfer portal opening in a week and the early signing period for high school recruits coming up later in December, school officials wanted to move quickly to get a new coach in place.
They landed on the 46-year-old Elko, a New Jersey native who was a key recruiter for Fisher in Texas and directed a defense that was the best part of Fisher’s most successful team in 2020, which went 9-1.
During the first four seasons of Fisher’s tenure, with Elko on staff, the Aggies went 34-14 and landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2022.
AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo contributed to this report.
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