DESTIN, Florida – Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher cooperated with Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s edict “to turn the page” on his feud with Alabama coach Nick Saban on Wednesday here at the SEC Spring Meetings.
But he will not be rewriting any chapters.
“No,” Fisher said when asked if he regretted anything he said about Saban two weeks ago. “I mean things are said – what he said, what we said. It moves on. We’re moving on to the next thing.”
Fisher, who was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000-04 and has been one of his most successful pupils-turned-head coach, called Saban “despicable” on May 19 and said Saban’s recruiting tactics should be looked into. That was the day after Saban said that A&M “bought every player” in its 2022 signing class through Name, Image & Likeness deals.
Fisher was asked, “You implied you were aware of malfeasance within Saban’s programs, do you have any evidence?”
“No,” Fisher said. “I made comments, and we’re moving on to the next thing.”
Fisher was later asked if any of his coaching friends thanked him for what he said about Saban or if any told him he went too far.
“No, I’m past all that,” he said. “We’ve moved on.”
Funny, “We’re moving on,” was a favorite saying of Saban when he and Fisher were at LSU.
“You told us to go look into the operation and tactics of certain people (Saban),” another question began, but Fisher interrupted. “I’m through talking about that,” he said. “We’ve moved on. Trying to figure out our schedule.”
Discussions of a move to a nine-game SEC schedule with three permanent foes and six rotating opponents continued Wednesday without a vote, but the Fisher-Saban feud continued to garner the most attention.
Fisher was asked if the NCAA had contacted him concerning his comments about Saban’s recruiting past at Alabama and at LSU.
“I’m moving on. I’m moving on,” he said.
Fisher also said he got along “great” with Saban when they were at LSU, contrary to a recent story in The Athletic, though there were some normal disagreements.
“We all fight. I mean you ought to hear a headset,” Fisher said. “You ought to hear a staff meeting some time. I go back to that. I mean, coaches, we don’t talk a lot anyway. We’re not talking to each other a lot. We ain’t callin’ each other and singing Kumbaya. We’re all too busy with the way the schedule (year round) is now. In the old days, you probably had more communication.”
Asked specifically how he got along with Saban at LSU, Fisher said, “We were good. I was on offense. He was on defense. We had a great relationship. We had a lot of success, did well, and were not many issues at all. Normal staff issues. ‘What are you doing here?’ But I mean nothing. We had a great relationship.”
One of the few disagreeements involved freshman wide receiver/returner Skyler Green in the 2003 national championship season. Saban asked Fisher at the time why he wasn’t playing Green more, and Fisher said because he didn’t know the plays yet.
“Well, teach him one play,” Saban said. And the strategy worked.
Fisher further downplayed disagreements on coaching staffs to a questioner.
“Let me ask you, you ever argue with your brother? You love your brother? Do you support your brother? That’s the way coaches are,” he said. “You can’t get to where you’re trying to go on a staff if you don’t have that. If everybody’s yes people and everybody says the same thing, you don’t ever get nowhere. So, you can’t get better. I mean, that’s part of our nature and our competitive nature.”
A reporter tried to wrap up the Fisher-Saban issue.
“Just to put a bow on it,” he began, but Fisher interrupted laughing.
“I tied that up. I’m done,” he said. “You want me to double knot it? I can double knot it.”
Fisher was asked again if he regretted any of his comments about Saban.
“I’m not talking about it,” he said. “We’re moving on. We’re moving on. I double knotted it, how about that?”
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne earlier Wednesday pointed out that Saban helped Fisher’s career. Fisher was not retained at Auburn as quarterbacks coach after the 1998 season when head coach Terry Bowden resigned. He was offensive coordinator for the first time in 1999 at Cincinnati, which went 3-8 that season and 0-6 in Conference USA.
Fisher’s offense helped Saban win his first career national championship at LSU in the 2003 season. Fisher parlayed his time at LSU into the head coach in waiting job at Florida State in 2007 under Coach Bobby Bowden. Fisher replaced Bowden after the 2009 season and won the 2013 national championship. After the 2017 season, Fisher jumped to Texas A&M as the highest paid college football coach in the country at the time at $7.5 million a year.
“Obviously, he has benefitted from working with Coach Saban, just like a lot of other coaches have,” Byrne said.
Saban, by the way, has spoken at Fisher’s charitable foundation functions and contributed money to the charity. And Fisher, it should be noted, waited for nearly an hour to congratulate Saban after Alabama beat Georgia, 26-23, in overtime on Jan. 8, 2018, for Saban’s sixth of seven national championships.
Byrne was asked about Fisher’s comments concerning Saban’s recruiting practices.
“We feel very good about our compliance and what we do at Alabama,” Byrne said. “That’s going to continue in the future.”
When first asked about Fisher’s comments, Byrne said, “I think Coach Fisher was, uh, uh, he was fired up.”
And he still is.
Considering how many times Fisher said he has “moved on,” he was asked if by the time Texas A&M plays at Alabama on Oct. 8 if he and Saban will be able to have a “friendly” conversation before the game as they have in the past.
“We’re going to be intense and ready to play each other,” Fisher shot back. “That’s all. We all smile and shake hands and say (Fisher switched to a low voice as if whispering in an opposing coach’s ear), ‘I’m going to beat your ass.'”
And everyone laughed loud.
“That’s what we do anyway,” Fisher said. “Every coach you play.”