- By Dave George Palm Beach Post Sports Columnist
Why would Jimbo Fisher leave Florida State?
Well, for openers, I won’t believe that he’s gone to Texas A&M or anywhere else until there is an official announcement. The reports of other “done deals” involving other coaches and other suitors have come up dry in the last week.
If it does happen, though, if FSU’s carefully constructed and maintained system of head coaching continuity is suddenly disrupted for the first time in four decades, it can only be because Jimbo is ready for a new adventure. It can’t just be about facilities, an issue that never is fully resolved in the ongoing arms race between major schools. It can’t be about one down season, either.
Maybe Jimbo has flirted with so many opportunities in recent years, including a close call with LSU last year, that staying put in Tallahassee for 10 or 20 more years is just starting to sound like a bore to him.
Makes no sense, really, since FSU is a top-10 program with a great recruiting pipeline and a history of national championships. Texas A&M would have to be built up to that level, and so would most other programs. That’s what kept Bobby Bowden in place at FSU for the biggest part of a lifetime. If it ain’t broke, why toss it aside?
The way that the coaching carousel continues to spin, however, Jimbo’s name can’t help but come up.
That’s because every school would love to have a guy like him, with a career average of more than 35 points per game and a .780 winning percentage and a seemingly unbreakable habit of qualifying for bowls, even in a sloppy season like this 5-6 puzzler has turned out to be.
On top of that, Jimbo and his agent, the omnipresent Jimmy Sexton, have never turned down an opportunity to improve their position at FSU.
Through the years, they have listened, and carefully, to LSU and Texas and Auburn and an NFL team or two. Can’t say that the seemingly annual flirtations have come to nothing, either, not when Fisher gets from FSU raises and contract extensions and bonus money for his staff and major facilities improvements.
Tennessee either couldn’t compete with that or didn’t try because the Volunteers reportedly made a panic move to hire Greg Schiano and now are even more panicked over the protests of fans over that decision.
Arkansas remains open, but that wouldn’t be enough to budge Jimbo. Texas A&M has the boldness to think it is irresistible to Fisher or any coach with Texas-sized ambitions. Even better, A&M’s athletic director, Scott Woodward, once worked with Jimbo when he was an LSU administrator and Fisher was an assistant coach there.
Stir it all up and there is reason enough to take this threat to FSU’s historical stability very seriously.
The math says it is possible that Jimbo could be less adored in Tallahassee than before. (In Jimbo’s first five FSU seasons, he won a national championship and lost a total of 11 games. In the last three seasons, he has lost 12.)
The momentum says it is possible he is ready to try his hand elsewhere. (Clemson has claimed control of the ACC from FSU, and Louisville and Miami have also made the Seminoles look bad lately).
Does the man himself say it is possible? No, until now Jimbo has been too smart for that. Following Saturday’s 38-22 win over Florida at the Swamp, he turned the questioning back on reporters, never giving an inch but never declaring that he absolutely will return to the Seminoles in 2018 either.
“Just let everything play out, guys,” Jimbo said. “I wouldn’t want your job, having to chase that stuff. Ya’ll create it, with the articles and things you do. Ain’t none of you ever coached. You have no knowledge of anything.
“With all your wisdom, answer your own questions. What do you think? You all are the experts. I’m interviewing you now. No answer? Ya’ll don’t like being grilled?”
Truth is, nobody likes being grilled. If Jimbo is starting to feel sensitive about how he’s viewed by FSU fans, he might feel that way now. There are family considerations, too, that no one else can gauge like he can.
Bottom line, this has the feel of a tipping point for the program and its highly successful boss.
Jimbo already has been in Tallahassee eight years as a head coach and three more as Bowden’s top assistant. At 52, he can keep going into his 70’s there, providing he maintains a winning edge. That’s what Bobby did.
Or, Jimbo may have grown weary of the little cuts and digs he hears when the Seminoles don’t win it all. That’s never going to feel or sound right when you’re one of only four active coaches with a national championship. It certainly didn’t sound right to Steve Spurrier, who walked away from Florida following the 2001 season with this explanation – “”I simply believe that 12 years as head coach at a major university in the SEC is long enough.”
Until the carousel stops spinning, there will be doubt. Who thought Bret Bielema, a winner of 74 percent of his games and three Big Ten titles at Wisconsin, would leave for Arkansas? Who knew that Bielema’s firing on Friday would begin a new round of rumors about Auburn’s Gus Malzahn wanting to go to Arkansas, plus another string of conjecture about Auburn wanting Jimbo instead?
This is how it works, and this is how Jimbo works it. Again and again.
If he really is gone to A&M, I will be surprised. In the SEC West, a coach must climb over Alabama and Auburn and LSU and sometimes Mississippi State, too. You can build a lot of muscles doing something like that.
You can build a lot of regrets, too.