Sumlin denies Chavis contact before LSU bowl

John Chavis' place in the growing LSU-Texas A&M rivalry was a hot topic at SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. – Texas A&M replaced Arkansas as LSU’s rivalry week matchup last season. If the league wanted to boost that Thanksgiving week battle, former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has helped make it even more intense.

Chavis left LSU soon after the 2014 season ended and headed for College Station. The story behind that departure has led to serious offseason drama between the two schools.

At his Tuesday press conference at the 2015 SEC Media Days, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin downplayed it and denied speaking with Chavis on the day of LSU’s bowl game against Notre Dame. Previously, Sumlin revealed to ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike that he had communicated with Chavis that day, a fact exposed by Sumlin's pool boy.

Chavis also tried to claim he didn't start working for Texas A&M until a month after pictures leaked of him recruiting in Aggie colors. That's now the center of a legal battle between Chavis and the LSU athletic department. If Chavis had been working for the Aggies before fulfilling his contractual obligations to LSU, he would owe his former employer a $400,000 buyout.

Sumlin, though, was terse when asked whether he called Chavis before LSU's bowl game and if the ongoing litigation had created a distraction.

“That’s not true," he said, "and it hasn’t been a distraction to me at all.”

After three straight losses to LSU since joining the SEC, it was very evident to Sumlin that Chavis had found the right recipe for quelling the Texas A&M offense. The Aggies led the conference in yards per game in all three seasons under Sumlin, but LSU forced a total of eight turnovers in those three meetings, including five in 2012.

The recent struggles against the purple and gold made Chavis an easy choice for Sumlin, whose defense ranked 102nd in the nation last season in yardage allowed.

“It’s a great fit for us and a great fit for him,” Sumlin said. “He was ready for a new challenge. He's got a tremendous track record in the SEC. His knowledge of opponents, his knowledge of the league helps me as a head coach, but it also helps our team and brings confidence right away to a defense that really needed it."

Chavis will make his return to Baton Rouge when the two schools meet Nov. 28. Will his presence on the opponent's sideline raise the stakes of this budding rivalry?

"When I walk in the stadium, they don't seem happy about me walking in there in the first place," Sumlin said. "I don't know if it can get any more spicier than it is now."

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