Big contract means big expectations for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — All those zeroes in Jimbo Fisher’s new contract hang over the coach like a huge cloud.

Texas A&M handed Fisher a 10-year, $75 million contract to leave Florida State after Kevin Sumlin was fired last year. Aggie fans believe that’s 75 million reasons why he should be the one to deliver their first national title since 1939.

He knew what the expectations were before the ink was dry on the deal. And he insists he isn’t daunted by them.

“A contract doesn’t make you win,” he told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to have a great team, I want to have a great program and that takes time.”

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Fisher has taken over a program that went 7-5 and 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play last season and one that hasn’t reached 10 wins since 2012. Fisher won a national title in 2013 and three Atlantic Coast Conference championships in eight seasons with the Seminoles.

The Aggies seem ready to buy into Fisher’s brand of coaching. Player after player raved about their new boss.

“Coach Fisher has brought a sense of history,” running back Trayveon Williams said. “He has been to the national championship, and he knows what it takes to win. He has brought that to this university, and he brought great coaching. He brought in the right guys to get us ready to win a national championship.”

The good vibes hit a bump this week after a former player who transferred to Arizona suggested Fisher’s staff may have committed NCAA violations earlier this year. Linebacker Santino Marchiol told USA Today that assistant Bradley Dale Peveto gave him cash on two occasions to entertain recruits on unofficial visits to campus and that mandatory team activities were run at impermissible times. Texas A&M said it was reviewing the allegations.

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Fisher is just the fourth head coach to leave a school where he has won an AP national championship and go directly into another college job. The last to do it was Johnny Majors, who went from Pittsburgh to Tennessee in 1977. Fisher had signed a contract extension through 2024 that was paying him $5.7 million last season. The 52-year-old West Virginia native seemed to have it made in Tallahassee — so why take on this challenge?

“I don’t think there’s any one reason,” he said. “There’s an accumulation of things. All the things have to be in place so you can do it. There was a lot of intrigue. First, I think you have the resources to do it all. Secondly, you have a commitment from your administration that is very important, people that see things in the same vision as I do.”

Fisher has been a coach of some sort since 1988. Another thing that drove the former college quarterback to leave Florida State was the thing that powers most who pick sports as a career.

“You like the challenge of let’s go do what hadn’t been done,” he said. “You like those challenges. If you’re a coach, a competitor, a player, whatever you are in athletics, if you don’t like the ability to try to do that then you’re probably not going to be successful wherever you go.”

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Sitting behind his desk in Texas A&M’s sparkling football complex, a shiny gold watch twinkling in in the Texas sunshine, the multimillionaire coach is far removed from that humble upbringing. He speaks quickly, with the words tumbling out at such a pace that he sometimes interrupts himself before a sentence is done to make another point.

Question after question is thrown at him and the answers come without so much as a pause until one query seems to catch him off guard: Is there one thing he would like everyone to know about him?

He laughed quietly, paused and answered:

“That you’ll get an honest answer or an honest day’s work,” he said. “You won’t get somebody that’s fake or in between. Someone that’s not going to tell you what you want to hear, it’s going to be honest and truthful in a positive way and (that) will help you in any way you can.”

That grounded approach came from his family and has stayed with him throughout his ascent through the coaching ranks. He credits monthlong visits to West Virginia each year. He gratefully thanks his parents — coal-miner father, John, and a mother, Gloria, who spent decades as a teacher. His family has helped Fisher avoid getting caught up in that contract that everyone’s talking about.

“It’s not about what you have, it’s what you do with what you have,” he said. “They’ve always said that and whether you have a lot, or you have a little you can still be good.”

Although he says he wouldn’t have left Florida State if he didn’t think he could win it all in College Station, Fisher won’t put a timetable on when he thinks the Aggies will compete for a title. There is culture-building to do before that goal is attainable.

He is quick to tell anyone from boosters to players that it isn’t an overnight process and it will take a lot of work.

“Everybody in this world, like kids today we want instant gratification. We want the glory without the sweat,” he said. “You’ve got to put time in and get the right things and create the culture and I think the quicker we can create the culture the more success we’ll have. And we’ll see when that time is.”

Fisher and the Aggies will get a good early test of where they are: They host Clemson in Week 2 and their fourth game is a visit to defending national champion Alabama and coach Nick Saban, Fisher’s old boss at LSU.

Fisher is not into making predictions. But as the Aggies move closer to their opener on Aug. 30 against Northwestern State he said he is starting to see signs that they’re getting it.

“They’re learning,” he said. “It’s a learning curve for them … but I’m starting to see a hunger. They want to be successful.”