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October 23, 2013

Time for FSU to pony up and lock Fisher down



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After more than a decade spent trying to find its way back to national prominence, Florida State appears to have worked back to the top of the college football world. Last Saturday night in front of a national television audience the Seminoles throttled then-No. 3 Clemson to remain undefeated. When the first BCS standings were released Sunday night FSU found itself firmly in the national championship hunt at No. 2 overall. Throw in a potential Heisman front-runner in Jameis Winston and everything is coming up roses for Seminole Nation.

Behind Florida State's revival is fourth-year head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Since taking over for coaching legend Bobby Bowden, who will be honored at FSU this Saturday, Fisher slowly built the football program back into a true college football power. The changes didn't happen overnight. The 48-year old coach overhauled the team from the ground up by changing the culture, putting more of an emphasis on recruiting, updating the strength and conditioning program, modernizing the nutrition of the players, and by making exceptional coaching hires.

Under Fisher's direction the program has steadily improved and in year four it appears to be back to the form that defined the Seminoles in the late 80's through the entire decade of the 90's. The talent base is a good as any team in the country (11 draft picks last April), the culture of winning is in place, there have been minimal off-the-field issues, not a hint of NCAA rules violations, and a much-improved graduation rate (88% average during Fisher's first three years).

All the tools appear to be in place for long team success. But one thing could foul it up in a hurry.

Jimbo Fisher has just a little over three years left on his contract. While that may seem like plenty of time for a guaranteed contract, in the world of big-time college football that's below the standard.

The head coaches at Florida State's biggest in-state rivals, Florida and Miami, received contract extensions last year. Florida's Will Muschamp has a deal that runs through 2017 and Miami third-year head coach Al Golden's contract goes all the way to 2020. Fisher's current contract expires in December of 2016.

Contract terms of five or more years are fairly commonplace for major college coaches these days. In fact, every football team ranked in the current top 10 of the BCS standings has a head coach with a contract that runs through at least 2017, with one exception - Florida State and Jimbo Fisher.

With that in mind, Fisher, through his agent Jimmy Sexton, requested a one-year extension to his contract late last year. As Warchant.com reported last December and early in 2013, there was indecision on FSU's part whether to grant the extension. Eventually, Florida State president Eric Barron decided against granting the extension.

That decision was a risky one.

Major head coach contracts
Coach Annual Salary Term
Nick Saban (Alabama) $5.62 million 2019
Bob Stoops (OU) $4.55 million 2020
Les Miles (LSU) $4.3 million 2019
Urban Meyer (Ohio St.) $4.0 million 2018
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) $3.9 million 2020
Gary Patterson (TCU) $3.8 million 2018
Charlie Strong (Louis.) $3.7 million 2020
Steve Spurrier (S.C.) $3.3 million 2017
Mark Richt (UGA) $3.2 million 2017
Kevin Sumlin (Tex A&M) $3.1 million 2017
Butch Jones (Tenn) $2.95 million 2018
Will Muschamp (UF) $2.9 million 2017
Jimbo Fisher (FSU) $2.75 million 2016
Gus Malzahn (Auburn) $2.3 million 2017
Jim Mora (UCLA) $2.25 million 2017
Dabo Swinney (Clemson) $2 million 2017
Al Golden (UM) $1.75 million 2020
Larry Fedora (UNC) $1.73 million 2018
* Contract information complied from
various news sources
In less than two months, the annual coaching carousel, where college programs fire and hire new head coaches, will begin. There's little doubt that the Seminoles' head coach will be on some schools' short list of candidates. Should FSU continue to play at the high level it has through the first six games, Fisher's stock in the eyes of potential suitors will soar.

It's in Florida State's best interests to lock Fisher down into a long-term contract now instead of getting into a bidding war with another school in a couple months. With a savvy agent leading the way, even keeping Fisher could cost FSU dearly should it wait much longer.

However, it doesn't sound like FSU is any real hurry to update Fisher's current agreement.

"At the appropriate time, we will address Coach Fisher's contract," noted new athletic director Stan Wilcox in a statement to Warchant.com. "Right now we need to concentrate on this football season and the upcoming games."

With Wilcox being on the job less than two months any decision on a new contract or extension will likely fall firmly in the lap of president Barron.

"We sort of wait for the president's lead on that," said FSU Board of Trustees member Dr. Joseph Camps when asked about Fisher's contract. "He'll bring that to us an we'll make those decisions."

So far, at least as of last week, Barron had not brought anything regarding Fisher's contract to the attention of the Trustees.

Even with time running short, the feeling among FSU's decision-makers is that something will get worked out soon.

"The way things are going I think everybody is pleased and I don't see why we won't be able to find something that will make him show our appreciation," explained Camps. "I'm almost certain we'll find that. I'm sure we will."

"We have discussed that and we are going to discuss it some more," added fellow Board of Trustee member Andrew Haggard. "Obviously he's in a wonderful position and we are in a wonderful position to have Jimbo. That will all be taken care of and we are looking forward to it."

If a new contract or extension is going to be taken care of it better happen soon. If not, Florida State could find itself in difficult position in a few months. Considering the investment made in Fisher and how that investment has paid off, there shouldn't be anything holding back Barron from getting a deal done soon.



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