Full disclosure: I’m a Florida State graduate. If Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M, I won’t be happy about it.
That being said, indecision is sometimes worse than wrong decision. The rumors of Fisher departing the Seminoles for the Aggies have circled for weeks, not days, which has been the most maddening part of this entire saga.
It wasn’t that long ago when FSU supporters like myself laughed off the idea of losing Fisher to A&M. After all, he won a national championship in 2013 — the school’s third in 21 seasons — and cleaned up year after year on the recruiting trail. While this season’s 5-6 performance has been puzzling, he won double-digit games each of the previous five years.
The Ags, on the other hand, have won 10 or more just once this century and last claimed a national title in 1939.
Still, money talks and you-know-what walks. Despite the fact that Fisher is already one of the highest-paid coaches in America at $5.7 million annually, the deep pockets in College Station have reportedly talked about $7 million.
The horse that is the financial arms race in college football is so far out of the barn, there’s no way to ever get it back. Even though Tallahassee has some of the finest facilities in the country — Fisher already has his indoor practice facility, which didn’t exist when he took over in 2010 — Texas A&M has spared no expense on campus.
Fisher has said in the past, correctly by the way, that you can’t exit this arms race once you decide to enter it.
After the indoor practice facility, it’s stadium expansion. After stadium expansion, it’s the players-only apartment complex. After the players-only apartment complex, it’s the barber shop, miniature golf course, bowling alley and nap room.
Florida State isn’t a poor school, but it isn’t a rich school, either — certainly not when compared to some of the powerhouses in the SEC. Fisher has been forced to fight tooth and nail for every addition, which in turn has soured some relationships on both sides. This has led to his yearly flirtations with other programs.
If you’re coaching this Aggies football team, you’re not being told no very often. Whatever you need is at your disposal.
There are many reasons why A&M’s most recent coach, Kevin Sumlin, was run out of town after six frustrating seasons on the job. Following an 11-2 debut in 2012, he was never able to keep pace and struggled in November.
Maybe former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was too good at the game’s most important and covered up more blemishes than we thought. Perhaps the coordinator combination — Noel Mazzone on offense, John Chavis on defense — wasn’t the dream team so many expected. Depth was always a concern on both sides of the ball, as well.
You never heard Sumlin (below) complain about a limited budget for his assistants or not enough seating at Kyle Field, though.
If the Ags replace Sumlin with Fisher, they’re getting an upgrade in a couple of crucial areas. First, he’s successfully rebuilt before. When he succeeded the legendary Bobby Bowden, the ‘Noles were broken and in need of repair.
Second, an argument can be made — alongside Dan Mullen, who just left Mississippi State for Florida — that Fisher is the best quarterback coach in the nation. Two of his one-time pupils, JaMarcus Russell and Jameis Winston, went on to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He turned Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel into first-rounders, too.
How much credit does Sumlin truly deserve for Manziel? So much of what he did was improvised outside of the designed play.
Third, and always most important when it comes to the college football world, Fisher has a long history of success on the recruiting trail. The eight classes he signed at Florida State from 2010-17 ranked fifth in the country on average.
From 2012-17, when Sumlin was at the controls on National Signing Day, Texas A&M’s classes averaged a 12th-place finish. While that’s not bad — Sumlin peaked at No. 5 in 2014, although he tumbled down to 18th just two years later — it’s not elite. The roster has been top-heavy with stars but thin once you get beyond them.
Fisher is attempting to do the right thing and finish the season, as the Seminoles face ULM on Saturday in a game that was rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma.
However, all evidence suggests that Fisher will indeed leave FSU in order to land on his feet at Texas A&M. You’ll notice that no other names have been attached to the Aggies’ vacancy. Meanwhile, the ‘Noles are vetting potential replacements.
At this point, even if Fisher decides that this was nothing more than grass-is-greener syndrome — just like each of the last two years with LSU — he may have worn out his welcome at Florida State. The fan base has grown increasingly tired of the drama associated with him. Should Fisher depart, the Seminoles will have no shortage of quality candidates on the carousel.
What remains to be seen is whether or not this upsets the balance of power not just in the West, but in the entire SEC.
It was assumed that Fisher didn’t go to LSU previously at least in part due to the shadow cast by Nick Saban at Alabama. Arguably Saban’s most successful protégé, having to face his mentor every year might not be appetizing to Fisher.
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Before he was put in charge of the Seminoles, Fisher had never been a head coach before at any level. Unquestionably, the brand he inherited had something to do with the hurdles he jumped. Under Bowden, FSU won 10 or more games every year from 1987-2000 — an NCAA record 14 straight. A&M has 12 total dating back to 1903.
The Ags are trying to buy their way into blue-blood status. Fisher is an expensive piece, and they can afford it.
But whatever Fisher decides to do, just do it already. Had this all gone down in two days, the ‘Noles would’ve been blind-sided. The fact that it’s taken two-plus weeks has given them more than enough time to brace for impact.