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July 20, 2014

Schoffel column: FSU's Fisher will have captive audience

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GREENSBORO, N.C. - Jimbo Fisher had only been Florida State's head coach for a few months the first time he made the trip to North Carolina for ACC Kickoff.

And let's just say he made a quick impression.

While chatting with the conference's other head coaches, Fisher was quick to voice his opinion on just about every topic that came up.

Scheduling. Officiating. You name it.

Fisher was so outspoken during the conversation that then-Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen even chuckled while talking to reporters about the new Florida State coach's candor. He said something along the lines of, "Jimbo's definitely not afraid to speak his mind."

Friedgen went on to explain he meant it as a compliment. He said he liked the fact that Fisher was willing to take a stand on issues; that he didn't just try to be diplomatic.

A lot has transpired in the four years since Fisher's first trip here. Friedgen is no longer at Maryland. The Terrapins aren't even in the ACC.

But rest assured, when the conference's football coaches get together this weekend in Greensboro, Fisher will be as outspoken as ever - only now, he will have the benefit of a bully pulpit. Both when he speaks with the media as well as with other coaches.

No longer is Fisher a junior member of this conference's coaching fraternity. In fact, only four of the league's 14 head coaches - Clemson's Dabo Swinney, Duke's David Cutcliffe, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer - have been running their programs longer.

And none of them are coming off of a national championship season. So when Fisher speaks now, you have to imagine he will have a captive audience.

Judging by the discussions at last week's SEC Media Days, there should be plenty of hot topics - from the challenges and opportunities created by college football's new four-team playoff format, to the practicality of paying student-athletes, to possible reforms to the recruiting calendar.

Fisher has long been a proponent of an early signing period for college football; one that would allow prospects who already have made up their minds to cut short what can be a grueling recruiting process. That idea is gaining support, and many believe it will be passed at some point in the near future.

Fisher also has been quick to speak up about situations that he believes are unfair to student-athletes - things like short turnarounds between games (caused when the conferences and television networks schedule teams to play twice in five days), unrealistic academic reforms, and rules interpretations that put players' well-being at risk.

It should come as no surprise to Florida State fans that Fisher has strong opinions.

During the 2012 season, he took the BCS to task publicly when his one-loss Florida State team was ranked behind several two-loss programs from other conferences. He also has been quick to send word to the ACC home office when he has been bothered by questionable (or poor) officiating.

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On a local level, it was Fisher's vision and persistence that led to the building of FSU's new Indoor Practice Facility. He also has spearheaded a number of other facility improvements, including renovations to the Seminoles' locker room and coaches' offices, as well as new dorms for the student-athletes.

On a larger scale, Fisher has lobbied for improvements to the college game, most notably goalpost lasers that would take the guesswork out of field goals that soar high above the uprights. Of course, that idea draws laughs from reporters every time Fisher mentions it, even though it actually makes perfect sense.

Perhaps there's just something funny about the word "lasers" (no thanks to Mike Myers' Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers movies). Or maybe it's just the audacity of suggesting something new and the fact that many people are uncomfortable with change.

Whatever the case, Jimbo Fisher clearly is not satisfied with the status quo. He's not afraid to speak his mind, either.

The ACC's other coaches learned that four years ago. Now that Fisher has a national championship under his belt, the rest of the college football world might find out soon enough.

During these next two days in Greensboro, Fisher will have ample opportunities to speak with the league's other coaches and administrators. He will address the media on Monday.

It's a safe bet that his ideas will be flowing fast and furious. They always are.

The only difference this time is that the college football world will be listening to his every word.

Ira Schoffel is managing editor of Warchant.com. Contact him at ira@warchant.com.



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