BATON ROUGE, La. – Baton Rouge might not be one of the first places reporters run to for reaction to the news of Texas A&M hiring Jimbo Fisher. They should, though, because the meltdown will be epic.
College football fans know the story. LSU flirted with Fisher – a former LSU offensive coordinator under Nick Saban – in each of the past two seasons. After Joe Alleva failed to get a deal done with Fisher at the end of the 2015 season, he retained Les Miles, only to fire him four games into the 2016 season. Alleva again couldn’t consummate a deal with Fisher or Tom Herman last offseason and instead hired Ed Orgeron.
A familiar chorus among fans in these parts was, “Jimbo was never coming!”
Texas A&M has disproved that theory.
Fisher wasn’t chasing merely a bigger paycheck; he wanted the support of an administration that knew what it took to win big. Despite 83 wins in eight seasons, including a national title and three conference titles, Fisher was fed up with losing assistants and begging for facility upgrades. A football-only complex at FSU remains in a holding pattern. Meanwhile, LSU is renovating the one it opened in 2005. The Aggies spent a half-billion dollars renovating Kyle Field and upgrading their football facilities.
LSU was able to provide Fisher with everything he needed to win. Fertile recruiting ground? Check. Top-tier facilities? Check. Enormous staff budget? Check. The only thing LSU didn’t have were its ducks in a row to close the deal.
While Miles dangled amid uncertainty for three weeks in 2015, Fisher was asked about the speculation every time there was a camera in his face. Pressure grew. People talked. Boosters wanted their say. Former players weighed in. Alleva was made to juggle every power broker who didn’t need to be involved, but was. It’s not all that dissimilar from what’s happening in Knoxville this week. The only difference is Alleva had the luxury of keeping his coach in place.
In the end, a disagreement between Alleva and LSU president F. King Alexander over Fisher’s compensation forced LSU to back away from a deal.
“After the type of budget battle we went through this past spring, we certainly do not need to be throwing tens of millions of dollars around under certain circumstances,” Alexander told the Baton Rouge Business Report.
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