Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again
Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|
By Joseph Goodman
Jimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a school allegedly buys an entire recruiting class it doesn’t even guarantee a winning record in the SEC.
Giving new meaning to desperate money in college football, Texas A&M will be paying Fisher $76 million to go away with two games left on the schedule. It’s an unprecedented level of embarrassment for a university in the Southeastern Conference, so Auburn should no longer feel badly about how things went down with Bryan Harsin.
The Aggies are 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the SEC while Alabama goes into the Iron Bowl in a couple weeks with the final SEC West championship already on ice. Which is to say that, welp, Nick Saban wins again.
Fisher will forever be a memorable footnote in Saban’s career after everything that went down in the spring of 2022. Remember the “Meltdowns in May?” There was a moment in 2022 when Alabama and Texas A&M were going to be the league’s new big rivalry. Stunningly, Fisher didn’t even last two seasons after his public feud with Alabama’s coach.
In honor of Fisher’s last days in the SEC — and Texas A&M’s colossal waste of talent and money — let’s revisit one last time one of the more bizarre moments in SEC football history. Saban was just supposed to promote the Birmingham World Games that night back in May of 2022, but he instead started a war of words with Fisher.
If Fisher ends up coaching the U.S. flag football team in the Olympics, then we’ll know it was all meant to be. At the time, it felt like the biggest scandal in SEC football history was about to erupt.
Saban agreed to promote that summer’s upcoming World Games with a fireside-chat style event at a swanky lounge in Birmingham’s Southside. Easy stuff, right? Wrong.
In the spring of 2022, something called the World Games was the last thing on Saban’s mind. He was furious with Fisher and Texas A&M. This was back when Alabama and Auburn still couldn’t form NIL collectives to pay players because Alabama’s overzealous state legislature had decided to ban them before anyone knew how they would be used in other states.
Never forget that Alabama was extremely eager to prevent college football players from getting paid to play. In the end, though, it handcuffed the recruiting efforts of the state’s own teams.
Suddenly at a disadvantage on the recruiting trail, Saban was so angry with college football’s new economy that he used the event in Birmingham about the World Games to instead publicly accuse Texas A&M of buying the best recruiting class in the country.
Saban’s charges against Texas A&M set off a nasty back-and-forth. Fisher reacted by calling a news conference that never should have happened. Among other colorful phrases spoken at the speed of sound, Fisher told reporters to start digging into Saban’s past.
“It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way, or things don’t go his way,” Fisher said. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous. When he’s not on top. And the parity in college football he’s talking about? Go talk to coaches who coached for him. You’ll find all the parity. Go dig in. You can find out anything.”
Fisher couldn’t stop himself. He was huffing mad. On and on he went.
“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out about a guy a lot of things you don’t want to know.”
It was bombshell stuff. Going into SEC spring meetings, Fisher vs. Saban was the biggest story in college football. The rivalry was going to be bigger than the Iron Bowl. Yeah, no. Despite that No.1 recruiting class, Texas A&M bombed the 2022 season. The Aggies lost six league games in a row. The streak included losses to Mississippi State, South Carolina, a mediocre Florida and an Auburn team being coached by Cadillac Williams.
There are a lot of angles to Texas A&M’s decision to fire Fisher. Let’s start with the money. The Aggies are arguably the wealthiest program in the country, but all that cash couldn’t buy a championship or even deliver a championship contender. I’m relieved by that outcome, if I’m being honest, because maybe it shows that in this new era of NIL it’s not all going to be about buying the highest rated recruits.
In firing Fisher, Texas A&M makes itself vulnerable at a tough time. Rival Texas is joining the league in 2024. A team like Auburn, which fired Harsin this time last year, is now in a much better place moving into an uncertain future for the league. Expect coaches like Freeze to waste no time in pillaging Texas A&M’s roster for top talent.
And, hey, maybe even Saban can grab those recruits out of the transfer portal who once picked the Aggies over the Crimson Tide.