It’s the most wonderful time of the year on the college football carousel, and the ACC isn’t immune. While names such as Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, and Duke’s David Cutcliffe have been mentioned as coaches being considered by other programs, there is one name that is drawing the most attention nationally.
Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
It is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that Fisher’s name has been rumored as a candidate elsewhere. However, the newest rumor seems to be the most credible, while making the least amount of sense. Last year, following the dismissal of Les Miles at LSU, Jimbo Fisher was rumored as the top choice to replace Miles in Death Valley. Fisher, of course, was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Nick Saban, and later, Les Miles, from 2000-2006 at LSU. If there was any time that Fisher was going to jump ship from a stable program in Tallahassee to the murky waters of the SEC, most would have expected it to be last year, to a place at LSU where he’s had previous ties and would be comfortable.
Yet here we are, a week prior to Florida State’s regular season finale at home against Louisiana-Monroe, speculating whether or not Fisher will leave Florida State for College Station, Texas, to take over a Texas A&M program that has plenty of money to spend, but unrealistic expectations to boot.
Let’s call it what it is: Florida State is a top five-to-seven program in the country. What’s Texas A&M? A top five-to-seven program in the SEC?
Jimbo Fisher replaced retiring Bobby Bowden at Florida State following the 2009-10 season. Since then, Fisher is 83-23 overall, 48-17 in the ACC, and is 5-2 in bowl games, which of course includes winning the National Championship in the 2013-14 season. He has been an extremely successful recruiter with the Seminoles (a trait that undoubtedly travels to wherever destination he may land), bringing perennial top five recruiting classes to Tallahassee. The four and five star talent that he brings to Florida State annually is unmatched by every program in the ACC not named Clemson, and the SEC-type players that he has brought into the fold with the ‘Noles is a major reason why they have been so competitive year-in and year-out in the ACC.
While Fisher would recruit well at Texas A&M, the road to supremacy seems far more unlikely for him in the SEC.
Fisher and Florida State compete with one powerhouse within the division every year in Clemson, but otherwise face a relatively tame schedule in the ACC. A move to Texas A&M channels the unknown of the SEC West, where he will compete against Alabama, Auburn, and LSU on a regular basis, which is a far, far more difficult than what he faces annually in the ACC Atlantic. Instead of winning one big game every year against Clemson in the ACC Atlantic to get to a conference championship, Fisher would have to get through at least two, and maybe all three teams mentioned in the SEC West to have an opportunity to win an SEC Championship.
So why is he even considering leaving?
Because it’s the SEC.
We can have the debates each and every year about what conference is better top-to-bottom by wins and losses, but there is no question that the talent on the field is better in the SEC than in any other conference in the country. If you find a way to win in a conference where four and five star recruits are simply a way of life, then you find yourself on the doorstep of the College Football Hall of Fame. This fact makes Nick Saban’s run at Alabama all the more impressive, and is why he is revered as one of the greatest coaches to ever live. Maybe Jimbo just wants a shot at knocking off his former boss (arguably the greatest to ever do it) each and every year, rather than on the off chance they meet in the College Football Playoff?
Even if this is indeed the rationale, Fisher needs to be very, very careful before making his final decision to leave Tallahassee. Currently, Fisher has the full support of the fan base, athletic department, and the boosters at Florida State. If he makes the move, he will be entering an environment at A&M where the fan base and boosters are out of touch, and expectations don’t match reality.
Florida State provides an easier path to a playoff, a team that’s already loaded with talent, and a place where support of the football team reigns above all. Nobody knows what the future holds, but as the saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener.
Only time will tell if Fisher will take that old adage to heart, and make the logical choice to stay in Tallahassee.