Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher leaving for Texas A&M
Fisher won't coach Seminoles in final regular-season game
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is leaving the Seminoles to take the open Texas A&M job.
Fisher will succeed Kevin Sumlin as the school's new football coach. Sumlin was fired Nov. 26 after six seasons at Texas A&M.
The 52-year-old West Virginia native will not coach the Seminoles in their final regular-season game Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. Longtime defensive line coach Odell Haggins will serve as interim coach.
"Florida State University has one of the premier programs in college football and has had only two head football coaches in the past 40 years," FSU president John Thrasher said in a statement Friday. "Today, Jimbo Fisher informed me he has accepted an offer to become the next head football coach at Texas A&M University. Coach Fisher did an exceptional job as both an assistant coach at FSU and in the challenging role of successor to the legendary Bobby Bowden. I believe Texas A&M is getting one of the best coaches in college football. We appreciate all he has done for our program and wish him and his family great success moving forward."
Fisher, who led the Seminoles to the 2013 national championship and three Atlantic Coast Conference titles, was 83-23 in eight seasons at FSU, including a 14-2 record against rivals Miami and Florida.
Aggies athletic director Scott Woodward worked with Fisher at LSU, where Fisher served as offensive coordinator when the Tigers won a national title under Nick Saban in 2003.
Sumlin was 86-43 in six seasons with the Aggies, but he was just 25-23 in SEC play. Fisher, on the other hand, was 10-2 against SEC teams during his FSU tenure.
Fisher agreed to a contract extension at FSU in December 2016, which increased his annual salary to about $5.7 million, making him the sixth-highest-paid coach among FBS teams. Fisher's departure means he would owe the university about $5 million.
"From the moment media reports began to circulate about our position, it became evident the job would attract great interest from a number of elite coaches, and we will move quickly to evaluate candidates from across the nation," Thrasher said.
Fisher first came to Tallahassee in 2007, when he replaced embattled offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Fisher spent his first three seasons as offensive coordinator under longtime head coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the reins in 2010.
The honeymoon got off to a pleasant start for Seminoles fans eager to return to the glory days of the 1990s under Bowden. FSU won two national championships and was 109-13-1 in the course of the decade -- the most victories of any team during that span. The Seminoles never won less than 10 games in any given year.
After Bowden's teams lost six games in three of his final four seasons, Fisher's first season brought immediate success. The Seminoles won 10 games for the first time since 2003 and won the ACC Atlantic Division, losing to Virginia Tech in the conference title game.
The Seminoles capped off a nine-win performance in Fisher's sophomore season with an 18-14 win against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
FSU won the first of three consecutive ACC championships in 2012, setting the stage for the Seminoles' 2013 championship run.
Highly touted redshirt freshman Jameis Winston led the Seminoles to an undefeated season, culminating with a 34-31 against Auburn in the final BCS National Championship. Winston became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy that season, becoming the third FSU quarterback, along with Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000), to take home the coveted award.
However, the Seminoles regressed each of the past four seasons since FSU won its third and most recent national championship.
Fisher's team won 13 consecutive games during the 2014 season and earned a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff before a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl. It was Winston's last game with the Seminoles.
The Seminoles won their first six games of the 2015 season under Fisher, but they were just 4-3 in the second half of the season, including a 38-24 loss to Houston in the Peach Bowl.
Florida State got off to a great start in the opening game of the 2016 season against Mississippi, rallying from a 28-13 deficit to beat the Rebels 45-34. But the Seminoles lost arguably their best player in safety Derwin James the next weekend and endured a humiliating 63-20 loss at Louisville in the first game without James.
Two weeks later, North Carolina knocked off FSU in Tallahassee, ending its nation's-best 22-game home winning streak.
Florida State rebounded to win seven of its next eight games -- the only loss to eventual national champion Clemson. It was expected to serve as a springboard for 2017.
The Seminoles began the season ranked third in the country, but starting quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season in a 24-7 loss to then-No. 1 Alabama in the opening game. Then there was the nearly three-week layoff caused by Hurricane Irma.
At one point, the Seminoles were 3-6 and on the verge of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1981. They'll need a win Saturday to become bowl eligible.
FSU hasn't had to conduct a coaching search in more than 40 years. Fisher was tabbed as Bowden's successor after his first season with the Seminoles.
"As the president alluded to, we are extremely pleased by the quality of individuals who have already expressed interest in being the head coach at Florida State University," athletic director Stan Wilcox said. "I am confident we will fill the position very soon."
The Seminoles haven't had a losing season since Bowden's first year in Tallahassee in 1976.
Fisher's name was twice previously linked to LSU. This time, however, the flirtation was mutual.
"I would tell our supporters and fans the same thing that I told our team: we will hire a head coach that will lead Florida State to ACC and national championships; one who will maintain our commitment to academic excellence; and one who will make you proud to be a Seminole," Wilcox said.
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