What we could never figure out in this Jimbo Fisher to West Virginia saga was why in the world would any assistant coach want to be locked down for three years through January 2011 like Fisher is now at FSU? People tell us that Fisher’s agent Jimmy Sexton has been pushing FSU to made a bigger commitment to Fisher and to designate him Bobby Bowden’s successor, but why would a hot head coaching commodity like Fisher want to play second fiddle for one day longer than he had to? Certainly, no one doubts that Jimbo Fisher would be the West Virginia head football coach right now making in the $1.5 million range with at least a 5-year contract if hadn’t signed this deal with FSU, but instead he is making $625,000 as the offensive coordinator at FSU, and he is still working for someone else. Maybe in the end this will all work out, but if Bobby Bowden coaches through the 2010 season, and Fisher has to pass up several more head coaching jobs because of this asinine $2.5 million buyout, then this contract Fisher signed with FSU may go down as the stupidest things since Bill Callahan was hired in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Leaders of athletic departments and football coaches need to be aware that the world we live in changes daily, if not by the hour, and with things changing so fast, it is not wise for either side of a transaction to lock any person down that is not at the very highest levels of leadership. For athletic directors the ideal for a head football coach is a 5-year contract, which has an option by the school to renew for 1-year periods. Any school that has any sense will always have a buyout in a head football coach’s contract, and that buyout should be roughly equal to what it will take to deal with the transition to a new coach, which would include paying off the coach’s assistants, the 1st year’s salary of the new head coach, and assorted transition costs to the new coach. If the current head coaching is making $2 million dollars, then the buyout should at least be $3 million dollars, because their is a real value in the marketplace for the skills of that head coach, and the school that he is leaving certainly has a right to be compensated for the loss of those skills. Certainly no private company would put itself in a position that its CEO could be hired away without appropriate compensation for the loss of his skills, and athletic departments should view their head football coach as a CEO that is high demand. If the athletic department does not view their head football coach as a valuable commodity that is wanted by other schools, then they probably need to find a new football coach. In the Jimbo Fisher situation in particular, if Fisher is stupid enough to sign a contract that includes a huge buyout that will keep him locked-down at FSU for the foreseeable future, then FSU should probably take advantage of that foolishness. Of course, FSU is taking a huge risk (a $2.5 million risk) that Fisher will be the person that they will want to hire in the head coaching position sometime in the next three years. From what we saw of the Florida State offense in 2007, we wouldn’t hire Jimbo Fisher to be the head coach at the local high school, and if the FSU offense does not show some significant improvement next season, the people running FSU might look like incredible idiots.
Bottom Line: If FSU was being pressured by Jimbo Fisher’s agent to lock-down Fisher and designate him as the successor to Bobby Bowden, if we had been in charge at FSU we would have told Jimmy Sexton to go take a flying leap. Jimbo Fisher is a good coach, but there are literally dozens of very good offensive coordinators in the game today, and many of them would walk to Tallahassee for a shot to coach at FSU. In a world that is moving and changing as fast as the one we live in today, FSU has no idea what the coaching landscape is going to look like even one year from now, forget 2011, and there was just no logical reason for them to give Jimbo Fisher such a lucrative deal. In fact, if Jimbo Fisher had not signed that contract with FSU he would be the head football coach at West Virginia right now, and for the Jimbo Fisher we know that is a challenge that he would surely have loved to taken on. One thing is for sure, when the Auburn Tigers visit West Virginia in Morgantown next year on September 6, you can be assured that somewhere Jimbo Fisher will be regretting signing this new contract with FSU.
If Jimbo Fisher is made the head coach at FSU in the next two years, then the contract that he just signed will have been a good deal for him. If something happens, like the FSU offense continues to look like something that is run at the local park by the 70 lb. pee-wee teams, or if Bobby Bowden coaches all of the next three seasons, or if Jimbo has to pass up several more head coaching jobs, this is going to go down as one of the dumbest moves ever in modern day college football. We just hope for Fisher’s, and FSU’s sake, that Jimbo Fisher quits worrying about contracts and other head coaching positions, and starts coaching the Seminole offense, because right now by all rights the product he is putting on the field does not qualify him for any head coaching position, anywhere.