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Jimbo Fisher Leaves Florida State for Texas A&M

The coach’s departure from a school he led to a national title changes the outlook for two brand-name programs—and speaks volumes about how thoroughly his relationship with FSU’s administration had deteriorated

Jimbo Fisher John Raoux/AP Photo

The college football coaching carousel continues to spin at warp speed. On Friday, Tomahawk Nation and the Tallahassee Democrat first reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has agreed to a contract with Texas A&M to replace Kevin Sumlin, who was fired Sunday on the heels of a 45–21 loss to LSU. Per a report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, the deal is for 10 years and $75 million.

This news may come as a shock to the casual fan, as Fisher went 83–23 at Florida State, won the Orange Bowl twice, and captured the final national championship of the BCS era after the 2014 season. The Seminoles claimed three ACC titles (2012–14) under his watch, and produced a number of future NFL standouts: Jameis Winston, Devonta Freeman, Kelvin Benjamin, Jalen Ramsey, and Dalvin Cook, among others. That is not the type of success that coaches typically walk away from; in fact, Fisher’s move marks the first time in 40 years that a head coach has left a school where he won a national championship to accept another FBS job.

But Fisher’s relationship with the program took a turn this fall. That began in September, when starting quarterback Deondre Francois went down with a season-ending patella injury in the opener against Alabama, casting doubt on the team’s 2017 outlook. It continued in October, when Fisher engaged in a verbal altercation with a fan after a 31–28 defeat to Louisville. It intensified a week later, when the Seminoles lost 35–3 at Boston College. And it crested on Wednesday, when Fisher was confronted by another fan during his weekly radio broadcast. The fan asked Fisher about his loyalty to his 5–6 team, and was promptly escorted out of the venue.

Fisher’s tenure at Florida State coincided with a number of investigations into the program, variously focusing on academic fraud, criminal misconduct, and multiple allegations of sexual assault against former Seminoles quarterback Winston. (He was never charged, and lawsuits against him were later settled out of court or dismissed.) And while Fisher had been linked to other high-profile head-coaching vacancies — most notably at LSU — his job status in Tallahassee always seemed secure.

At some point, though, a relationship between coach and administration can grow too fraught to continue, and that appears to have been the case. A recent Tallahassee Democrat story noted how Fisher and Seminoles Boosters Inc. president Andy Miller “just don’t like each other,” and school president John Thrasher told the paper that, “There’s always personal dynamics in play in these situations.” Thrasher added what’s been widely perceived as a jab at Fisher: “This structure has been in place since the Boosters were founded. It has served us well, and I don’t see any issues that reasonable adults could not work through. … How many football coaches have we had in the last 40 years?”

Fisher will reportedly not coach Florida State’s regular-season finale against Louisiana-Monroe, and instead will join forces with A&M athletic director Scott Woodward, with whom he previously worked during his stint as offensive coordinator at LSU. He’ll also inherit a program eager for change. The Aggies found early success under Kevin Sumlin, winning 11 games and the Cotton Bowl in 2012 during quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy campaign. But A&M subsequently plateaued, going 9–4 the next season and 8–5 in the following three. Woodward told ESPN’s Paul Finebaum this spring that Sumlin “has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.” The Aggies started 4–1 before closing the regular season at 7–5.

Texas A&M lands an established coach and an accomplished recruiter to try to challenge Alabama in the SEC West. Florida State will look to replace Fisher, and reportedly is targeting Oregon’s Willie Taggart. If recent history is any indication, a Ducks-Seminoles pairing would have the potential to produce maximum entertainment.