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First Wins: R.C. Slocum

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of Football Foundation

Through three seasons, few question that Jimbo Fisher has Texas A&M moving in the right direction. Last season, the Aggies played in a major bowl game for the first time 1998.

There was a time however, when big-time bowl games were common for the Aggies. That was under R.C. Slocum.

Our “First Wins” series that takes a look at the first head coaching victories for legendary coaches arrives in College Station. The first victory for Slocum was an upset of a top-10 team.

Early Life and Career

Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, those two states would hold dear to Slocum throughout his life in football. After graduating from Stark High School in Texas, Slocum returned to the Bayou to play his college football at McNeese State (now McNeese).

Slocum played tight end for the Cowboys from 1965 to 1967. After earning degrees in physical education and educational administration, Slocum wasted little time putting those degrees to work.

In 1968 at just 23 years old, Slocum began his career in coaching as he was tabbed to serve as defensive coordinator at Lake Charles High School in Louisiana. Slocum spent two years there before moving to the college ranks as an assistant to the freshman teams at Kansas State.

That stint would last two years. In 1972, Slocum began coaching at a place where he would spend 30 of the next 31 years and become a legend — Texas A&M.

Once an Aggie

Hired by Emory Bellard, Slocum was an offensive assistant in 1972 before spending the next six years assisting the defense. Although he saw success, Bellard resigned after back-to-back blowout losses in 1978. He was succeeded by Tom Wilson. Wilson not only retained Solcum in 1979, but he promoted him.

Slocum worked two years under Wilson before leaving College Station in 1981. That leave would last just one season.

Slocum headed west to serve as defensive coordinator under John Robinson at USC. The Trojans led the Pac-10 in total defense that season, but his heart was at Texas A&M.

After going 21-19 in more than three seasons, Wilson was replaced by Jackie Sherrill. Sherrill brought Slocum back to College Station as defensive coordinator in 1982. Slocum never left.

The Sherrill era in College Station was a mixed bag. The Aggies won three straight Southwest Conference titles from 1985 to 1987, but suffered at least five losses in every other season. In 1988, Texas A&M finished 7-5, but was also found to violate NCAA rules.

Sherrill resigned in December of that year. His successor was an in-house hire — defensive coordinator R.C. Slocum.

The First Win

At 44 years old, Slocum didn’t have time to ease into his new job. His debut came at Kyle Field, but it came against a top-10 foe in No. 7 LSU.

The Tigers had dominated the recent series as they arrived in College Station on Sept. 2, 1989. LSU had defeated the Aggies in each of the previous three seasons by a combined 79-20 margin.

When all was said and done, Texas A&M had emerged victorious, 28-16. The Slocum era had started with a bang.

That was the case from the opening kickoff.

Texas A&M led 7-0 before the visiting Tigers could blink as Larry Horton took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. That would be the lone score of the first half for the Aggies as they went to the locker room with a 7-3 lead.

The teams traded touchdowns late in the third quarter. After Texas A&M running back Darren Lewis found tight end Mike Jones on a beautifully-executed halfback pass for a 26-yard touchdown, the Tigers responded with a touchdown pass from Tommy Hodson to Willie Williams.

Texas A&M maintained the 14-10 lead until the final three minutes of the contest. Fullback Robert Wilson, who rushed for a career-high 121 yards, made things tough on LSU with a 20-yard touchdown run with 2:58 to play. 15 seconds later, Kevin Smith provided the exclamation point, returning a Hodson interception 40 yards for the sealing touchdown.

LSU would add a garbage-time touchdown, but that didn’t diminish the celebration. In his first game as a head coach, Slocum was a winner.

Always an Aggie

Texas A&M would finish 8-4 in Slocum’s first season and ranked in the top 20. The Aggies and Slocum however, were just getting started.

After finishing tied for second in the Southwest Conference and in the top 20 in 1989 and 1990, Slocum led the Aggies to three straight conference crowns from 1991 to 1993. It would have been four straight had it not been been for probation in 1994.

Over those four years, the Aggies didn’t lose a single conference game, going 28-0-1. Slocum’s Texas A&M teams were known for their “Wrecking Crew” defenses, which included 1998 Bednarik Award-winning linebacker Dat Nguyen.

It was Texas Tech that ultimately ended Texas A&M’s 29-game conference unbeaten streak early in the 1995 season. The Aggies however, finished ranked in the AP Poll in each of Slocum’s first seven seasons, including as high as No. 7 in 1992.

The transition from the Southwest Conference to the Big 12 wasn’t a great one for Slocum and the Aggies, but Texas A&M did play in two of the first three Big 12 Championships. In 1998, Texas A&M won its only Big 12 championship, rallying from 15 points down for a thrilling 36-33 double-overtime victory over No. 2 Kansas State.

Over his 14 years in College Station, Texas A&M finished ranked 10 times and never had a losing record. Slocum resigned after a 6-6 season in 2002.

10 years later, Slocum would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2019, Slocum spent a brief period as the school’s interim athletic director. Earlier this summer, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.

A 3-time Southwest Conference Coach of the Year, Slocum coached and won more games than any Texas A&M head coach ever, compiling a 123-47-2 record. His first victory was an upset over a top-10 team at Kyle Field.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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