Andy Staples has a long feature out today about how Texas A&M landed Jimbo Fisher. It's a well reported story, rich with history and culture dating back nearly four decades.
Even now, nearly seven months after Fisher lifted his cowboy boots to the sky, it's kind of hard to believe that it actually happened. When a secret is this poorly kept, with so much lag time between when the courtship can mature from rumor to fact, it usually provides a competing faction within the school ample time to scuttle the deal -- think Texas's failed 2013 pursuit of Nick Saban, or LSU nearly having Jimbo Fisher in the bag in 2015 before Les Miles executed a successful coup against Joe Alleva.
Everyone knew Texas A&M would pursue Jimbo if things went south in 2017, and the season played out perfectly in that aspect, starting with the Aggies' 34-point collapse on Labor Day Sunday against UCLA. Meanwhile, Florida State's season fell apart in the perfect way, too. Just think: what if Deondre Francois doesn't get hurt against Alabama and Florida State wins that game? Does Florida State go on a run from there, rallying an appropriate level of support to Jimbo's side to keep him in Tallahassee? But Florida State sputtered to a 2-5 start, and a Keep Jimbo coalition never formed. The 'Noles were ready to try again with some new blood.
You can dig into Staples's story for the nuts and bolts of how Fisher got to College Station, but I want to talk about another hire. Here is how Texas A&M AD Scott Woodward, then at Washington, describes how the coaching search that lured Chris Petersen out of Boise went:
His first time out in December 2008, not many people wanted the job. The Huskies had gone 0–11 in Tyrone Willingham’s final season, and Woodward considered it a victory to get USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. When USC poached Sarkisian following the firing of Lane Kiffin in 2013, Woodward had a list of standard candidates. There was Jim Mora Jr., a Washington alumnus who had gone 19–8 in his first two seasons at UCLA. There was Justin Wilcox, an up-and-comer who had served as Washington’s defensive coordinator under Sarkisian. But as Woodward considered these names, he got a call from Bennett Speyer, who represented Chris Petersen. Petersen had decided the timing was right to leave Boise State, and Washington fit what he sought in a Power 5 job.
Woodward’s response: “WHAT?” His next thought? “Let’s get it done,” Woodward says. “It literally went down that fast.”
That experience taught Woodward to aim high when filling a coaching vacancy, and it's within the realm of possibility that Fisher isn't the Texas A&M coach today if Petersen doesn't instruct his agent to make that call in late 2013.
That Washington-Petersen search also feels like a throwback to a bygone era, even though it was just five years ago. Coaching hires these days are as complicated as corporate mergers, where it takes the two sides upwards of six months to hash out the finer points of the contract.
Not this one. "Hey, I'd like that job." "You would? Okay, it's yours."