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Jimbo Fisher a symptom of college system’s problems

Posted on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 9:54 am

By J. Daniel Pearson
Guest Columnist

Frankly it would have been easy to pile on.

Last Friday, like most FSU fans, I was upset at the way the Jimbo Fisher to Texas A$M mess went down and was more than ready toss some hate into that bubbling, boiling cauldron of venom, mistrust, betrayal and desertion.

But over the weekend something else occurred to me.

Any tomahawks I wanted to throw at Fisher would have been headed in the wrong direction.

Instead they should be directed at University Presidents, Athletic Directors, the networks, athletic boosters, and frankly us fans.

Because all of us are to blame for a ridiculous system where schools feel the pressure to fire and payoff millions to a relatively successful coach in order to — wait for it …wait for it —just poach some other relatively successful coach from some other institution.

And to exasperate the situation, if we don’t like the direction it appears our athletic director is taking in his poaching process, well heck that’s okay, we will can fire him too. What’s the big deal about tossing away another couple million in a buyout anyways?

The real issue here is the money.

Recently the Power Five conferences have seen huge infusions of cash from conference television contracts, the college football playoff, and the NCAA basketball tournament.

Add in the fact that there is no shortage of fans willing to donate $100 or a $1000 or $10,000 because their alma mater “needs” their support, suddenly it became possible to pay a college football coach $6 or $9 or $11 million a year and hell if the guy goes 8-4 and the fans “demand” a change that’s okay we have $8 or $14 million left laying around to pay him off.

The absurdity of what the system has become hit home with me while talking to my good friend Wayne Hogan after the Fisher news came out.

Hogan has 30-plus years of experience in college athletics, serving as an Assistant and Interim Athletic Director at Florida State, Athletic Director at Montana, and until recently as an Associate Athletic Director at Georgia Tech.

When discussing what has been happening at FSU, Tennessee and other schools, Hogan noted that he was actually happy that he was no longer involved in college athletics.

“Frankly what’s happening is nothing short of total insanity,” Hogan noted. “People don’t realize that you are just not buying out the head coach — his assistants are under contract too and some of those coordinators may have multi-million dollar and multi-year deals. Now you are going to pay off the head coach and his entire staff for the privilege of paying even more for a new guy and his staff. What Tennessee is spending this year to just get rid of it’s coach and athletic director (an estimated $20 million according to Knox News) would more than cover the entire athletic budget during my last year at Montana. It makes me physically ill to think that tossing away eight or 10 or 14 million dollars just to make a coaching change has become the norm or the cost of doing business.”

Circling back to Fisher, I can’t help but remember a quote a few years ago from radio icon Jim Rome. When discussing Albert Pujols’ monster contract and quoting Albert as saying it wasn’t about the money, Rome said “Let me make something abundantly clear, whenever you hear someone say it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money.”

In its simplest form, Fisher’s situation is no different.

You can not tell me if you were making $75,000 a year you would not at least listen to someone who offered you $110,000 a year. And don’t tell me it’s not the same when you are making $5 million a year. It’s exactly the same — no it’s worse —because the guys making $5 million a year tend to have huge egos and can’t stand the idea of a coach with lesser credentials being paid more.

Whether FSU fans cares to admit it, they do own Fisher a little gratitude. The program had lost a lot of its prestige and mojo in Bowden’s final years and Jimbo did bring a national championship to the Noles. And while some will argue that the majority of that success came in the two years that Jameis Winston was quarterback, the fact remains that even with a 5-6 season in 2017; Fisher’s eight seasons produced more wins, a better bowl record, and a better winning percentage than Bowden’s first eight or last eight seasons at FSU did.

Regardless of whether the other guys were down or not, I will always be appreciative and admire Fisher’s 14-2 record against the Lizards and Canes.

And frankly little has been said about what Fisher’s person life has been like in Tallahassee. Between his son’s illness and the breakup of his marriage, maybe he just decided it was time for a change or even needed to make a change.

That is in no way to suggest Fisher is not without blame in this mess.

For having a roster full of four and five star recruits, it’s may have been understandable that the Noles could not win a national championship this year after Francois went down, but the home losses to NC State and Louisville and that horrible road performance to Boston College were inexcusable.

One can not help but wonder whether Jimbo had the proverbial “one foot out the door” earlier this season, as his team looked woefully unprepared in many of those losses.

Further, Jimbo’s assertions of lack of support from the administration are laughable at best. He was one of top paid coaches in the country and his staff was highly compensated too. Doak Campbell Stadium is top notch facility, FSU built his indoor practice facility and agreed to build the stand alone football palace he demanded. It is a joke to suggest the Nole administration turned a deaf ear to Jimbo’s wants and desires.

The fact the he continued to demand more in a year where he did not produce no doubt contributed to his departure.

Still I decided not to join in on the lynch mob mentality of the Fisher criticism

This was a divorce. An ugly, messy divorce. And the truth of the matter is that ugly, messy divorces are seldom civil, often provide scandalous fodder for the media and certainly shine the light on the ugly side of both parties.

But the most important thing to remember is that we the fans are not without blame.

The current state of college football begs many questions—when did we get to the point that as fans we started to view an eight or nine win season as an utter failure? When did we get to a point that a coach with a .700 winning percentage needed to be run out of town? In what business other than college athletics is it acceptable to give CEO’s (head coaches) multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts and throw away that company money (buyouts) 12 months later because of slight down turn in earnings (8-4 record)?

The current system is badly diseased and the Fisher situation is just a symptom.