BATON ROUGE, La. – In the days after Texas A&M blew a 34-point lead in the Aggies’ season opener at UCLA, a longtime A&M insider told the Chronicle, “Remember the name Jimbo Fisher.”
In the couple of months since, the insider and eventually others have not wavered in their belief that the sought-after Florida State coach will succeed Kevin Sumlin at A&M.
Sumlin coached his final game with the Aggies on Saturday night when A&M played at LSU, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. Sumlin did a good but not great job with A&M over six seasons, and A&M leadership and its top financial donors expect “great” after spending nearly a half-billion dollars on a Kyle Field rebuild and $5 million annually on Sumlin.
Why Fisher? The reasons are many, according to insiders familiar with the process. Fisher and A&M athletic director Scott Woodward worked together in the early to mid-2000s at LSU, and by all accounts had a good relationship then and have a good relationship now.
Woodward has declined to directly address Sumlin’s future with A&M, while Fisher has said in the past month, after his name has been connected with A&M, that he would not address other jobs.
FSU won at in-state rival Florida 38-22 on Saturday, in the hours prior to A&M and LSU kicking off in Tiger Stadium. The 5-6 Seminoles are wrapping up easily their worst season under Fisher, and even rescheduled a previously canceled game against Louisiana-Monroe for this coming Saturday to try and become bowl eligible with a .500 record.
Fisher was asked on Saturday in a postgame news conference if he had coached his last Florida State-Florida meeting.
“I ain’t talking about jobs, I ain’t getting into all of that,” Fisher told an inquiring Orlando Sentinel columnist. “You know how I go about things.”
Fisher added during the news conference that he understands how media works, especially when it comes to coaching searches in late fall.
“Y’all are doing your jobs, trying to get the (website) hits,” Fisher said. “Just let everything play out, guys. You’ve got to do your job, I understand that, and that’s part of everything. I wouldn’t want your job, having to chase that stuff around.”
Florida State first canceled the Louisiana-Monroe game because of Hurricane Irma in September. But when the Seminoles realized they needed the game to perhaps become eligible for a bowl, it was rescheduled for this Saturday. It’s not clear whether Fisher will stick around to coach the new regular-season finale.
A person familiar with the entire process said while Fisher is divorced, his former wife and two young sons would also be willing to leave Tallahassee, Fla., to be closer to the father in his new job. The youngest son has Fanconi anemia, a life-threatening medical condition, and Houston’s expansive medical center is considered one of the best in the world.
Fisher has won at least 10 games in a season six times in his eight years as the Seminoles’ head coach, including when FSU finished 14-0 in 2013 and won a national championship. By comparison Sumlin has one season with double-digit victories in his six years at A&M, and has never won a league title. His first A&M team in 2012 finished 11-2 and fifth nationally, and quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, and it’s mostly been downhill since for the Aggies.
A&M has finished 8-5 in their three previous seasons, and this year lost at home to Mississippi State and Auburn by a combined 36 points on successive weekends. A&M entered Saturday night’s game at LSU having lost all five of its previous SEC West games with the Tigers, yet another sticking point in the Sumlin regime that left those with a say in the matter calling for change.
Fisher has plenty of experience in the SEC as an assisstant. He served as Auburn’s quarterbacks coach from 1993-98 and as LSU’s offensive coordinator from 2000-06, when he worked with Woodward.