Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher Just Got Popular With The Aggie Nation, And He Needed That

After four seasons as Texas A&M’s football coach, Jimbo Fisher is 34-14 overall and 21-12 in the Southeastern Conference. His highest finish in the league is No. 2 in 2020 at 8-1 in the COVID season.

His other SEC finishes featured a pair of 4-4 marks in 2019 and last year for fourth and a tie for third, respectively, and a tie for second in 2018 at 5-3. He did finish in the top five of the Associated Press poll at No. 4 in 2020 after a 9-1 season and arguably should have been voted into the College Football Playoffs. But his only other top 20 finish was No. 16 in 2018. He is 1-3 against Alabama.

Not very good for the highest paid college football coach in the nation when he was hired from Florida State after the 2017 season to a 10-year contract at an average of $7.5 million a year. After the 9-1 and No. 4 finish in 2020, he got a four-year extension through 2031 at an average of $9 million a year.

Kevin Sumlin, whom Fisher replaced after Sumlin went 7-6 and 4-4 in 2017, was 36-16 and 17-15 after his first four seasons with a No. 5 finish in 2012 and a No. 18 in 2013. He was also 1-3 against Alabama at that point.

Fisher appeared to be on his way in 2020 and again last year as he knocked off No. 1 Alabama and his mentor, coach Nick Saban, 41-38. He won with a backup quarterback, Zach Calzada, who replaced starter Haynes King for the season in game two because of an injury.

Fisher had one of the nation’s best defenses under coordinator Mike Elko, whose unit finished third in the nation in fewest points allowed at 15.9 and No. 14 in total defense (327 yards a game). But his offense sputtered in losses to Arkansas, 20-10, Mississippi State, 26-22, Ole Miss, 29-19, and an embarrassing one to LSU, 27-24, to close the season.

LSU finished 6-7 and 3-5 for its worst season this century, but managed to beat Fisher with lame duck coach Ed Orgeron and a depleting roster. Arkansas and State both finished in the middle of the pack in the SEC with the Aggies at 4-4.

That is not what former Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward (now at LSU) had his school and boosters pay for for when he hired Fisher. The Aggies clearly had superior talent to LSU, State and Arkansas, but lost. There were two top six recruiting classes and a No. 7 on the field in those losses.

So that No. 1 class Fisher just signed in February does not necessarily guarantee multi-million dollar success, and the Aggie Nation knows that. So Fisher has not exactly been on an extended honeymoon since that LSU loss and his average season, even though his contract was extended before last season.

That is until Thursday.

Fisher basically picked up his second win over Alabama as the Aggies coach by putting Coach Nick Saban in his place like no one ever has since maybe Saban’s late father when Nick was a teenager.

“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said of Saban, who accused Fisher of buying his entire 2022 signing class via Name, Image and Likeness deals on Wednesday night. NCAA rules state that NIL deals cannot happen or be promised until after a player signs.

“Go dig into how God did his deal and you may find things out about a guy you didn’t want to know,” Fisher said. “We build him up to be the czar of football. We never bought anybody, no rules were broken, nothing was done wrong. It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way. The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen, and it’s ridiculous when he’s not on top.”

Fisher hadn’t shown as bad ass an attacking offense since quarterback Jameis Winston led him to the national championship in the 2013 season at Florida State. And he wasn’t done running it up.

“I don’t cheat and I don’t lie,” he said. “I learned that when I was kid, if you did, the old man slapped you upside the head. Maybe somebody should have slapped him.”

Wow! If only Fisher was the coach at Auburn in this scenario. The Iron Bowl would get some much needed hate polish. It would be like the 1980s again with Ray Perkins and Pat Dye.

What are LSU fans to do with all this? With Saban and Fisher, they’ve been torn between two they hate for years, but depending on the era, they would have killed to have either as their head coach.

Fisher was reprimanded Thursday as was Saban by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who basically told each to go to their room without dinner. And Saban apologized, sort of. Saban also called Fisher on Thursday, but Fisher refused to talk to him.

Maybe it will all blow over and both West Virginians, who worked well with one another at LSU from 2000-04, will be on their best behavior at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida, later this month.

Fisher needs to remember that Saban did help his career significantly when he hired him from the offensive coordinator post at Cincinnati after the 1999 season. The Bearcats were not a power at the time. They went 3-8 in 1999 after 2-9 finish the year before. And Fisher had just been let go at Auburn after a 3-8 season in 1998 season that followed head coach Terry Bowden resigning under pressure at mid-season. Fisher needed a job in the SEC, and Saban gave him the keys to what became one of the best offenses in the SEC at LSU from 2001-04.

Fisher did accomplish two significant things with his tirade Thursday. Saban will likely never again criticize Fisher or Texas A&M in the way he unprofessionally and immaturely did on Wednesday night, even if he was accurate.

And Fisher just gained some major popularity with the Aggie Nation, Auburn fans, LSU fans, Tennessee fans and other fan bases across the SEC and nation who hate Nick Saban because he beats their team most of the time. Or because they just hate him.

“A&M has a huge former student base,” an incensed A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said Thursday. “The Aggie network is strong. I guess people don’t like A&M disrupting the power base of college football.”

Well, you haven’t come close to doing that on the field yet, but go on.

“We aren’t done and going anywhere,” he said. “Everyone here at A&M has Coach Fisher’s back.”

And not nearly as many likely did before Thursday.

“I’ve been with our Board of Regents the last day,” said Bjork, who pushed for Sankey to reprimand Saban. “The regents, chancellor and president all have Jimbo’s back. We are going to stand up for our program.”

Bjork said Saban’s comments and Fisher’s attack that followed have further galvanized A&M’s fans and – more importantly – A&M’s donor base.

So, Nick, look for even more lucrative and imaginative NIL deals for Aggie prospects in the future.

The Aggie Nation is saying don’t pick on our coach. That’s our job. Now Saban has made Fisher popular amid a fan base starting to doubt him and a donor base wondering why they spent so much money on him.

Fisher is still overpaid for what he has done on the field so far, but he is popular again in Aggie land. He may have even gained some fans at LSU.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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