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Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher cannot get away from the LSU question.
He was not asked about the current LSU football coaching job opening this week going into Saturday’s game between his No. 15 Aggies (8-3, 4-3 SEC) and LSU (5-6, 2-5 SEC) at 6 p.m. on ESPN. But he was asked about the projected opening at LSU in 2015 when he was Florida’s State’s coach.
The day before the 2015 A&M-LSU game in Baton Rouge, then-LSU coach Les Miles told the Gridiron Club fan group at a luncheon on Nov. 27 that he would be leaving after the season.
“I’ll always be a Tiger,” Miles said in a very low voice at what he called his last such luncheon, according to those who were there. “But if you go to the bowl game, you won’t see me.”
The Tigers then defeated Texas A&M and Coach Kevin Sumlin 19-7 in Tiger Stadium the next night. And Miles was carried off on his players’ shoulders and ended up keeping his job in a surprise non-move by LSU’s administration that was decided upon in the press box suites during that game.
“In 2015, we were all up in that press box at LSU for the A&M game at night, and it was a pretty wild setting, and we were writing that Jimbo Fisher was going to be replacing Les Miles,” a questioner began at Fisher’s press conference on Monday as Fisher started laughing.
“So my question is ultimately why did you decide to stay where you were at that time?” Fisher was asked.
“There was never a job offered to me then,” Fisher said. “It was never a situation offered to me then, and wasn’t there. So, no decision was made. I was at Florida State, and we were very happy, won a lot of football games. That simple.”
Florida State would finish the 2015 season at 10-2 and 6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for second, following a 13-1, 8-0 ACC championship season in 2014 in which the Seminoles reached the first College Football Playoff. In the 2013 season, Florida State won the BCS national title and the ACC title in a 14-0 and 8-0 season.
“We made some inquiries,” then-LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said on Dec. 11, 2015, about LSU contact with Fisher’s agent Jimmy Sexton late in the 2015 season. “There were inquiries made.”
Fisher’s 48-6 record and the national championship would have meant a yearly salary in the $7 to $8 million range that LSU officials at the time felt they were not ready to pay as LSU still had to pay a buyout of approximately $10 million to Miles. Miles was fired after a 2-2 start in the 2016 season, and Fisher went 10-3 at Florida State and was in the mix again for the LSU job.
But Alleva was after Houston coach Tom Herman, despite Herman’s voluminous work history in the state of Texas. Herman was a graduate assistant at Texas and an assistant coach at Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice, all of which pointed to him being the Texas Longhorns’ next coach.
Herman turned down LSU for Texas, and Alleva hired interim coach Ed Orgeron for approximately $3.5 million a year. Orgeron won the 2019 national championship at 15-0 and increased his pay to $9 million a year in 2021.
After Fisher went 7-6 and 3-5 in the ACC in 2017, Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward hired Fisher to be his football coach at $7.5 million a year. That goes up to $9 million a year next season.
Woodward became LSU’s athletic director in 2019, and after a 3-3 start this year, fired Orgeron last month, effective at the end of this season. Orgeron will be paid a $17 million buyout while Woodward conducts a national search that could end up with LSU paying a new coach between $8 and $10 million a year.
Woodward has had a strong interest in hiring Fisher, whom Woodward got to know when Fisher was LSU’s offensive coordinator from 2000-04 under coach Nick Saban and Woodward was director of external affairs at LSU at the time before moving on to the same job at Washington, where he later became athletic director.
Fisher also continues to say how much he enjoyed his time at LSU, which included the program’s first SEC championship since 1988 in 2001, another SEC title and the national championship in 2003.
“Dynamic atmosphere,” he said. “Fun. It was fun to be on that sideline and feel that atmosphere. Of course, we had good teams. It was wild. It was crazy, but we were really good too. We were winning the national championship. We were winning SEC championships. We were one of the top teams in the country.”
LSU finished in the top 10 four times during Fisher’s time as offensive coordinator, including 2005 and ’06 under Miles before Fisher became the head coach in waiting at Florida State from 2007-09.
“Very electric,” Fisher said. “Very fun, great people, and they love their Tigers. It’s a heck of an atmosphere, man, it really is. It’s a great place to play when you’re home, and a tough place to play when you’re on the road. For two reasons, the atmosphere there, but the players on the field.”
Fisher said this LSU team is very talented as well.
“Always have and always will have talent,” he said. “I mean, they always have players everywhere.”
Texas A&M players have recently voiced their appreciation for Fisher vowing to remain at Texas A&M.
“There’s a trust. You have to trust,” he said. “People always say, ‘You’ve got the players’ careers in your hands.’ Well, they’ve got our career in their hands. It’s a trust factor. This is a give and take.”
Texas A&M is a 6.5-point favorite at LSU by FanDuel. The Aggies have not won in Tiger Stadium since 1994.
“They play really well there,” he said. “Last game of the year, they’re going to play well. I know it’s going to be Ed’s last game, so it’s going to be very emotional. They’ll be ready to play. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”