Now that the initial shock has subsided after Texas A&M tossed Jimbo Fisher a $77 million maroon parachute out of Aggieland, let’s try to take a step back from the absurdity. Here are four thoughts on the dismissal of the former Florida State coach and its impact on the sport:
Fisher’s FSU legacy worth revisiting
There was plenty of schadenfreude among Seminoles fans after Fisher was fired a day after No. 4 FSU beat Miami to improve to 10-0. Some of it is deserved, considering how the 2013 national champion bolted Tallahassee and the mess he left behind. But Fisher also deserves a slice of credit for FSU’s revival.
His frustration over facilities spurred action that will become visible when construction for the Dunlap Football Center begins in earnest in the coming weeks. Gripes about a lack of alignment led to the Florida State University Athletics Association, which streamlined the department. Fisher exposed the cracks in FSU’s foundation that, eventually, led to Mike Norvell fixing them. Speaking of Norvell …
Norvell-to-A&M speculation’s worth considering
Norvell is from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and still dips into Texas for recruits. His success (66-32 overall record), adaptability, entertaining offense and turnaround at FSU have made him one of the best coaches in the game. The Aggies would be foolish not to consider hiring him.
Norvell didn’t completely shoot down the idea Monday. If money’s an issue, Texas A&M can almost certainly outbid anyone thanks to its riches from the SEC and oil-baron donors. FSU has been vocal about its fears that ACC resources will limit the school’s ability to compete nationally (we’ll come back to this); perhaps Norvell feels the same way, especially with star quarterback Jordan Travis playing his final season.
Three other things to consider: Norvell has finally upped recruiting and has the nation’s No. 3 class this cycle. Is that something he’d want to leave? Would he want to bail on a program that was patient with him and gave him an extension when he was 8-13? And, most practically, remember the timing.
Schools need coaches to start as soon as possible to prepare for December’s early signing period and transfer portal window. That timeline doesn’t work if a candidate has a team in the College Football Playoff — a realistic possibility for Norvell’s Seminoles.
Texas A&M job is a bellwether
The Power Five will become the Power Four when the Pac-12 effectively dies this summer but might as well be the Power Two. There’s the SEC/Big Ten, and then there’s everyone else.
This opening and the ones at Mississippi State and Michigan State will give us a better understanding of the divide. Can one of them poach a sitting ACC coach, like Norvell or Duke’s Mike Elko? What about Oregon’s Dan Lanning or Washington’s Kalen DeBoer — two coaches at premier programs who are joining the Big Ten but won’t receive full Big Ten payouts?
A turning point for the business model?
Even if you were fine with schools paying nine-figure salaries and 10-figure buyouts for coaches to lead unpaid players, Fisher’s exit fee changes the calculus. You can’t square schools’ claims that paying players would force them to cut non-revenue sports with the fact that the Aggies are paying Fisher $77 million to not work. That $77 million would fund USF’s entire athletic department ($62.3 million, according to figures submitted to the U.S. Department of Education) and all of the women’s programs at UCF.
The $7.3 million Fisher will receive annually (according to The Athletic) is enough to give every scholarship football player almost $86,000 or fund the entire coaching staff of every Aggies women’s sports program.
The college sports model is already under evolving in favor of paying players (indirectly now through name, image and likeness). Fisher just added another compelling argument on the path toward direct player compensation.
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