Jimbo Fisher vs. Nick Saban: Kiss and make up? Not exactly ...
MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — Cooler heads have prevailed, everyone. Until the first week of October, anyway.
Jimbo Fisher swears it’s over, declaring more than a dozen times at the podium during SEC spring meetings that his recent dustup with Nick Saban is history.
He then walked away from the dais after nearly 15 minutes of finding various ways of saying he has moved on, and offered this up while walking with his wife, Courtney, toward the door at the Hilton Resort.
Take advantage of Underdog's special Jimmy Butler Game 4 offer!
“All coaches, we’re all good until we get on the field,” Fisher said. “Then you shake his hand before the game and smile, and you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to whip his ass.’”
So there you have it. If you’re looking for a response from Fisher — or heck, from Saban, too — you’ll have to wait until Oct. 8, when Texas A&M travels to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama in what was the biggest game of the SEC regular season before all of this nonsense.
That Saban declared last month the Aggies “bought” every player in their No.1-ranked recruiting class, and that Fisher replied by asking reporters to go look into Saban’s past and find his recruiting skeletons, is meaningless. At least, that’s what Fisher sold Wednesday.
He was the chair of the SEC coaches meeting (it rotates annually), and bragged all the coaches should thank him for ending the meetings well ahead of schedule. And yes, he and Saban spoke at the beginning of the meeting.
LSU coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Saban apologized to the group for calling out Texas A&M last month.
“We spoke in the beginning. It’s over,” Fisher said. “We’re trying to fix the problems of college football. We’ve got a lot more pressing needs than our arguments.”
Like how many conference games will the SEC play when Texas and Oklahoma are added to the conference in 2025. Or how many permanent opponents each team will have in what is beginning to look like a one-division format.
Fisher said he would “love” to have rival Texas as a permanent opponent. The Aggies and Longhorns haven’t played since 2011, the year before Texas A&M left the Big 12 and joined the SEC.
“Rivalries are what college football is all about,” Fisher said.
Now there’s another rivalry brewing between Alabama and Texas A&M, and the events of the past 2 weeks only underscored it. When Texas A&M beat Alabama last season — giving Saban his first loss against a former assistant in 25 games — the rivalry line was drawn.
Saban’s accusation that Texas A&M — and by proxy, Fisher — “bought” its entire recruiting class, threw kerosene on a grease fire. “Bought” is loaded word in college football, and has been associated with cheating in the sport for 150-plus years.
Texas A&M played in the old Southwest Conference, where paying players was flagrant and where cheating led to the demise of the once-powerful league in the early 1990s. The insinuation that Fisher “bought” every player brought back memories of those destructive days for many Aggies fans.
When asked if he had heard from other coaches about his response to Saban, Fisher said, “We’re moving on.”
When asked if the NCAA had contacted him about his claims of Saban’s history with recruiting, Fisher said, “I’m through talking about that.”
When pressed again on the dynamic in the room, and how he dealt with it, Fisher said, “You ever argue with your brother? Do you love your brother? Do you support your brother? That’s how coaches are. You can’t get to where you’re trying to go on a staff if everybody is yes people and everybody says the same thing. You don’t get anywhere. That’s part of our competitive nature.”
And that’s where this will come to a head. CBS likely will choose the Oct. 8 meeting as its one primetime game of the season, and the lead-up to the game will be filed with what was in the drama-filled SEC spring.
Odds are, Fisher and Saban won’t have talked by then. And that shouldn’t be surprising, even though they worked together on Saban’s LSU staff in the early 2000s — and until this spring, had a cordial relationship.
They’ll meet at the middle of the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
Then want to beat each other’s ass.
“Coaches, we’re not calling each other every day and singing Kumbaya,” Fisher said.
They’ve moved on, all right.
Until the first week of October.