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Almost nobody believes coaches when it comes to them being up for another job, whether they’re telling the truth or not.
“Everybody thinks all coaches lie,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday after yet another question linking him to the LSU opening.
“Y’all don’t believe us,” he said. “That’s why we don’t trust y’all. So, we’re even, OK?”
We can all blame Nick Saban for this.
All this distrust went viral like never before or since on Dec. 21, 2006, at a Miami Dolphins press conference when Saban was Miami’s head coach. This made the belief system between reporters and coaches linked to jobs worse than ever forever.
“I guess I have to say it,” Saban said pointedly after yet another question linking him to the Alabama opening. “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to respond to rumors and innuendo. I have no control over that. I’ve stated what my intentions are, and they really haven’t changed. So, I don’t know what the issue is. And I don’t know why people keep asking about it.”
Saban was lying, and he sold it remarkably well, like a true used car salesman – aka just about any college football coach on a recruiting trip. This was rare for Saban, though. He is usually more honest than most in his field and anything but a used car salesman. He is actually in the new car business now. At the time, he was lying for his team, which still had two games to play. If they knew he was just finishing the string, he’d lose the team.
And less than two weeks later on Jan. 4, 2007, Saban was introduced at a press conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama because he was “going to be the Alabama coach.” Saban admitted the next summer at SEC Media Days, he could’ve handled that better.
Fisher was as adamant about remaining Texas A&M’s coach as Saban on Monday, only Fisher really is telling the truth. The questions and beliefs about Saban’s move to Alabama persisted because a few people knew something was going on behind the scenes with Saban’s agent Jimmy Sexton. Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky, formerly of the Birmingham News, knew the most about it and repeatedly wrote that Saban was coming to Alabama before and more than anyone.
Saban was also unhappy in the NFL, and the Dolphins were 6-8 on the season after a 21-0 loss at balmy Buffalo. On Dec. 31, he would finish 6-10 — his only losing season in 28 years as a head coach anywhere. But he was unhappy the year before, too, even during and after a 9-7 season in his first year with the Dolphins, who completed one of most dramatic turnarounds in the NFL at the time as Miami was 4-12 in 2004.
Fisher loves it at Texas A&M, and his roster and immediate future there on the field is better than LSU’s. He is also the first Saban pupil-head coach to beat Saban.
The Tigers (4-6, 2-5 SEC) will have their first losing season this century if they lose to A&M on Nov. 27 in Tiger Stadium. That could all change by 2022 or 2023 under a new coach, but right now and probably next year, A&M (7-3, 4-3 SEC) is and will be better than LSU.
Historically, the LSU job is better than the Texas A&M job. The Tigers have won three national championships and played for a fourth since 2003 when Saban (then with the Tigers) won his first. A&M last won a national championship in 1939. LSU’s last three titles came under three coaches, and the latter two — Les Miles and Ed Orgeron — are not as good a coach as Fisher. LSU’s success under Miles and Orgeron speaks to the talent LSU attracts, even with average to slightly above average coaches.
The Aggies have never reached the SEC Championship Game and will not this season after falling to Ole Miss on Saturday.
LSU will always have a better geographic recruiting base because of the number of players annually in the surrounding areas of Baton Rouge and the fact that there is no other Power Five conference school in the state. A&M has long been little brother to Texas, which is just 100 miles away in beautiful Austin.
But right now the A&M job is better than the LSU job, and Fisher will go from $7.5 million a year to $9 million a year on Jan. 1 with a new contract through 2031. Texas has been a struggling program for years, and at 4-6 this year, could be headed to its fourth losing season since 2014 with a 7-6 and an 8-5 in there. Coach Steve Sarkisian — not exactly a solid hire — is the Longhorns’ third coach since 2014. The fact that Texas will enter the SEC soon will only make it more difficult to win, so Texas is likely not a threat any time soon to what Fisher is building.
Fisher’s signing class for 2022 is ranked No. 4 by Rivals.com, following three top six classes from 2019 through 2021 after getting the job in 2018.
“We’re going to recruit an unbelievable class this year,” Fisher said. “So, I’m either the dumbest human being on God’s earth who’s going to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go across (to LSU) and go play against them. If I did that, you ought to say, ‘That’s the dumbest human being. I don’t want him to be my coach.'”
Fisher was very convincing. So was Saban, but Fisher is not as slick as Saban. He seems more open and spontaneous, less calculating.
“We’re going to recruit a heck of a class,” Fisher said. “We’re going to have special things here. We’re building special things. They’re investing in the program. They’re investing in everything we’ve got. We’re building a culture.”
At LSU, Fisher, 56, would have to start all over again — particularly that culture part, considering the off-field headlines around LSU over the last year. One of the main reasons Saban turned down Texas after the 2013 season when Mack Brown left was because he would have had to start over at age 62 and leave a place that was rolling with national titles in the 2011 and ’12 seasons and another one coming in 2015.
The time for LSU to hire Fisher was when he was disenchanted at Florida State in 2016 and ’17 after he won the national championship there in 2013. He would have come to LSU then, but then-LSU athletic director Joe Alleva didn’t think he was worth the money the market was demanding for Fisher at the time because of his success at FSU. That was a terrible time for LSU of all places to be fiscally responsible. They’ve been paying football coaches dearly to leave instead of take over ever since.
Fisher is not coming to LSU now. He is just getting started at Texas A&M and really enjoying it. He wasn’t enjoying his final years at FSU.
“I ain’t going nowhere,” Fisher said Monday. “I don’t want to be nowhere else. I love being right here. I’ve told everybody I’m staying here. I’ve told everybody I plan on being the coach at A&M. I plan on being here. I love the AD (Ross Bjork). I love the president (Katherine Banks). I love the Chancellor (John Sharp). I love living here. I love being at my ranch. The family loves it here. I love Kyle Field. I love the people. Obviously, that’s not good enough. I get it. I read reports. People come to me. I don’t want to hear it. I’m not interested.”
So, why do the questions and the lists continue to include Fisher as an LSU candidate? Because LSU is very interested. Fisher is not, which is why he has not been listed here. LSU athletic director Scott Woodward hired Fisher from Florida State when Woodward was A&M’s athletic director. The two are good friends from their days together at LSU in the early 2000s when Woodward was in the chancellor’s office and Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator. But Fisher’s not coming.
LSU people also have a tendency to think they can just hire anyone from anywhere. The truth is, Saban coming to LSU from Michigan State after the 1999 season was the only time LSU attracted a head coach from a better program at that time. Michigan State was decent for five seasons under Saban. LSU had lost in eight of its previous 11 seasons. Saban was also looking to leave Michigan State and was only making in the $600,000 range. LSU paid him $1.2 million.
Even if LSU comes up with the money — amid paying Orgeron’s ridiculous $17 million buyout — to pay Fisher more than A&M, Fisher’s still not coming.
If Fisher ever leaves A&M, it will be for the NFL.
“I want to be at A&M,” Fisher said. “I plan on being at A&M. I ain’t going. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I love being right here. Is that clean enough?”