COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Landing Jimbo Fisher, a coach with a national title on his resume, seemed like just what Texas A&M needed to finally become a championship contender.
But Fisher failed to replicate his success at Florida State in six years with the Aggies and athletic director Ross Bjork fired the coach Sunday despite owing him more than $75 million.
“That’s the hard part in all of this,” Bjork said. “How many sitting head coaches won national championships? So, everyone had tons of optimism. But it just goes back to the last couple of years. Do we have momentum? Do we have hope? How do we see things trending? And we just didn’t see the trend lines improving.”
Instead of winning a title, Fisher went 45-25 and 27-21 in the Southeastern Conference, never winning more than nine games in any season. The Aggies are 6-4 with two games left, coming off a 51-10 victory against Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Bjork met with university president Mark Welsh and Texas A&M system chancellor John Sharp earlier this week and told them that a coaching change was “absolutely necessary.”
“The assessment that I delivered was that we are not reaching our full potential,” Bjork said. “We are not in the championship conversation and something was not quite right about our direction and the plan.”
Assistant Elijah Robinson will serve as interim coach for the last two games. Assistant athletic director for football operations Mark Robinson was also let go Sunday.
Bjork delivered the news to Fisher on Sunday morning at Kyle Field in a meeting the AD called “quick and cordial.”
Fisher was lured away from Florida State, where he had won a national championship in 2013, by a massive 10-year, fully guaranteed contract at the end of the 2017 season.
That contract was extended back to 10 years after he led the Aggies to a 9-1 record during the 2020 pandemic season, by far A&M’s best year under Fisher.
According to his contract, Fisher is owed the entirety of what remains on his deal — regardless of whether he gets another job in coaching — a staggering buyout that is more than triple the largest known given to a fired head coach.
Bjork said 25% of what Fisher is owed — about $19 million — is due within 60 days and the first of several installments of about $7 million must be paid within 120 days.
“We will use unrestricted contributions within the 12th Man Foundation for the first one-time payment and the athletic department will fund the annual payments for the remaining portion by growing our revenues and adjusting our annual operating budget accordingly,” he said.
He added that the school “has to learn a lesson” from Fisher’s contract and that the finances involving his firing are “monumental.”
“Although this is a major, major financial decision that comes with many consequences, we have a plan and we will not let this impact the performance or the culture of our entire athletics program,” Bjork said.
Auburn paid out more than $21 million when it fired Gus Malzahn after the 2020 season.
Fisher was asked if the season was frustrating after Saturday night’s victory.
“It’s not frustrating, but it’s disappointing at times,” Fisher said. “Like I’ve said, we’re three or four plays from playing in a playoff spot. But we’ve got to put that past us and grow from it and learn from it for next year.”
Bjork said there was no last straw that prompted Fisher’s firing but rather the totality of how the program was operating.
“You’re either moving forward or you’re stuck. We were stuck … something was not working to reach our full potential,” Bjork said.
The search for a new coach will begin immediately with Bjork saying he hopes to hire someone by Dec. 4. He said they’ll put together an advisory committee that will include industry experts and former players.
Landing Fisher was seen a power move by then-Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward. A coach had not left a school where he won a national championship and immediately jumped to another job since Johnny Majors left Pittsburgh for Tennessee in 1977.
Texas A&M has only one national title to its credit in 1939 and last won a conference championship in 1998 as a member of the Big 12.
At Fisher’s introductory news conference, school leaders made their goals clear, having a national championship trophy made up with 20 — engraved on it.
Fisher never even won a Southeastern Conference division title, and when the Aggies went 5-7 last season and failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2008, the pressure ramped up in 2023.
He was hired to replace Kevin Sumlin, who was fired with one game left in 2017 with a 7-5 record that year and a 51-26 mark in six seasons. But Fisher didn’t even match the success of Sumlin — who went 11-2 in his first season when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy — much less elevate the team under his command.
Fisher finally gave up play-calling duties and hired former head coach Bobby Petrino to run the offense. There was some improvement on that side of the ball, though injuries — most notably to promising quarterback Conner Weigman — blunted progress.
An early season loss to Miami made Texas A&M fans quickly begin to wonder if anything had changed. A stretch of three losses in four games to Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi assured the Aggies of another season in the middle of the pack in the SEC.
The Aggies have regular-season games left against Abilene Christian and LSU.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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