Jimbo Fisher has been contacted by a handful of NFL teams the last two years, including offers he characterized as “decently serious.” But the Florida State coach said he thought about them for about “half an hour” before realizing he is where he wants to be.
“I love college and I had opportunities to go to pro football as an assistant coach and as a coordinator and I’ve had inquiries as a head coach,” Fisher, 50, said during an exclusive interview last week with The Palm Beach Post.
“It’s got to be the right organization at the right time and the right situation if you’re ever interested. We have a great situation where I’m at. It’s not something that drives me.”
Fisher, who has won a national championship, three ACC titles and has an .829 winning percentage in six seasons, has Florida State rolling and says he would like it to be his one and only head coaching stop.
For that to happen, Florida State needs to provide the resources that would allow the Seminoles to remain competitive in a region in which programs like SEC powers Alabama and LSU and even the Seminoles’ closest competitor in the ACC, Clemson, don’t hesitate to provide money for the infrastructure and first-rate facilities for their programs.
“You can’t ever say never in this business,” Fisher said, a lesson his mentor Nick Saban learned when he was coaching the Dolphins.
“But I love what we have going and if we can keep the same culture of what we’ve able to create and keep progressing forward in the things we want to do and give us everything we need to do to be successful … I’d love to be here forever and ever.”
Fisher jokes during his booster tour stops that the FSU administration hates to see him coming because it means he is asking for money for something, whether it’s an indoor practice facility (completed in 2013) or upgrades to academic support (next on Fisher’s list) or programs to help the kids cope with demands of being a student and an athlete or even satellite camps.
FSU is in the middle of an eight-year, $250 million “Champions Campaign” to upgrade football facilities. Already it has completed work on the indoor practice facility, locker room, coaches’ offices and players’ lounge.
Florida State president John Thrasher told the Post in February that he’s aware of the money it takes to maintain a national powerhouse program, especially in football, and that includes coaches’ salaries. Fisher was the fifth highest paid coach in the country last season, earning $5.15 million before bonuses.
“The face of Florida State to some extent is athletics,” Thrasher said. “There’s not an endless amount out there, particularly when you have all the other things you have to support in athletics.”
FSU Athletic Director Stan Wilcox was asked last week at the ACC meetings in Amelia Island about the rising cost of remaining competitive. Wilcox said he is continually monitoring the other major Power 5 schools.
“You have to keep up with what the trends are, where the market is at,” Wilcox said. Wilcox said rising salaries, especially in football, are a “concern across the country” and added, “that’s just a portion of the college athletics landscape and how (costs are) escalating.”
The speculation last November was Fisher was on LSU’s short list when Les Miles’ job reportedly was in danger. Those rumors were put to rest when the Post reported that Fisher told Thrasher he was not leaving and LSU then decided to keep Miles.
Fisher, though, understands his name will be linked to coaching vacancies.
“Hopefully we’ll continue to do a great job and if more people want you that means you’re doing the right things at your university. That only, to me, enhances our brand name and what we’re doing at Florida State,” Fisher said.
One of those contacts from the NFL came this year but Fisher said it was not serious. He spoke to Saban about his NFL experience with the Dolphins. Saban coached the Dolphins for two seasons, going 9-7 in 2005 and 6-10 in 2006, after which — despite many public statements made over the course of months that he was not leaving — he left for the University of Alabama.
Fisher believes everything would have to align even if he ever consider the jump, meaning it would take “a great owner, great GM, organization. … All very critical points. Also, in that league you better have a quarterback. In all leagues you better but you definitely better up there.”
Like most college coaches who are asked about making the move, the one thing Fisher would miss the most about the college game is the teaching of young players.
“I do love the teaching aspect of college kids and getting to educate them,” he said.
For Fisher, one issue will override everything. He is divorced and has two sons, Ethan, 11, and Trey, 14. Ethan is suffering from Fanconi anemia, a rare disease that causes bone marrow failure and a very high risk for leukemia and other cancers.
“Family is critical to me,” said. “That’s my life. My kids are my life. Whatever situation that ever happens, here, there, anywhere, they are the first and foremost thing I think about.
“But at the same time you have to make the right decision, whatever is right for them and us as a group.”