Scott Woodward got his man.
And Texas A&M’s got a chance. A big-time chance to make it big.
In their most blockbuster hire since they lured Jackie Sherrill out of Pittsburgh with the biggest contract ever given to a college football coach at the time, the Aggies hit a home run Friday when it was revealed that A&M had hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State.
A few will argue that, given Florida State’s current record, it’s more of a solo homer or an inside-the-park home run instead of a grand slam, but that’s splitting hairs. A&M hit it out of the park, in my opinion.
If you want to win big, you hire big-time coaches and recruit big-time players. A&M already has big-time facilities, plays in the most elite conference, has a die-hard fan base (despite the poorly attended games at Kyle Field late this season) and now shows it can be a player on a national scale. The magnitude of this hire can’t be overstated.
Fisher’s hiring probably ranks among the biggest in the state since Baylor landed Art Briles out of Houston, however noxious that came to be. Briles made Baylor relevant nationally, both good and very, very bad, before departing. Otherwise, it’s the best hire since Gary Patterson was promoted to head coach at TCU. Bringing in Fisher certainly raises A&M’s national profile and greatly raises the recruiting stakes for Tom Herman and Patterson.
The news is big for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the probably fully guaranteed contract that some Aggies followers believe could reach $70 million.
It’s become the price of doing business, just like when the Bum Bright-led search in 1982 prompted A&M to pluck the 38-year-old Sherrill out of Pittsburgh for the outlandish sticker price of about $281,000 a year over the objections of A&M’s president. Sherrill guided A&M to NCAA probation, but not before winning three Southwest Conference titles, beating Texas for his final five seasons and defeating Auburn and Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. He, too, replaced a coach who was 7-5 as he followed the ousted Tom Wilson.
After his initial 5-6 season, Sherrill famously said, “You’d better get your licks in now,” and the same might well apply to A&M’s football peers.
Fisher has won a national title, one of only four active FBS coaches who has done so, and those coaches rarely leave their current homes.
On a name recognition level, Fisher is on par with Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney. Not saying he’s as good as those three, but his name creates a buzz that A&M hasn’t had.
I’m told by Aggies insiders that Woodward also reached out to Swinney, Washington’s Chris Petersen and retired Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, although Woodward didn’t respond to a text message.
It could be argued that this move is on the same level as the decision by the Aggies to bolt from the Big 12 for the SEC. That said, A&M has yet to flirt heavily with winning the SEC West (Kevin Sumlin was 16-20 within the division), hasn’t won a conference title anywhere since 1998 and won its only national title nearly 80 years ago in 1939.
Some will point to Fisher’s 5-6 record this fall and suggest he’s slipping. I consider it a blip, much like Patterson’s 4-8 record in 2013, which he’s followed with seasons of 12, 11, six and now 10 wins.
Some will mention Fisher’s age, but 52 is young in coaching years. And just how long will Saban stick around?
Many will wonder about how well Fisher will recruit in Texas, given his extensive background elsewhere, but I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t land big-time prospects just as Sumlin did.
It’s all a bit mystifying because Florida State is a better job than A&M. FSU has been a bigger winner the past 20 years and certainly a top-10 program, but who’s to say A&M can’t become the better job. The Aggies just got a better coach.