Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher doesn't have the luxury of patience in Year 1
The 10-year, $75 million contract demands success in College Station
ATLANTA -- Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M led off the festivities at SEC Media Days Monday afternoon, but finishing in first in the SEC West might be a little bit more difficult early in Fisher's tenure as head coach.
It doesn't matter. With the 10-year, $75 million contract Texas A&M used to lure him away from Florida State -- a place where he won a national championship -- Fisher doesn't have the luxury of time.
That's what makes this season in College Station so interesting. Fisher is building this program from the ground up, with his philosophy and a national championship in mind.
"I think your timetable is as quick as you can put things in place and everyone buys into what you're trying to do," Fisher said inside the College Football Hall of Fame. "You have a timetable, your timetable is now."
How difficult will that be? With the shadow of Nick Saban hanging over the SEC West, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's ability to step out of that shadow (two wins over Alabama in five tries) and the sleeping giant of LSU one state over, it'll be the most pressing challenge of his career.
"Is that realistic? I don't know. Could it be? Yes. Could it not be? Yes. It's all about the process of putting things in place," he said. "Because you want to build a program the right way up and get kids to understand and buy in."
Fisher is building this in his image -- with multiple tight ends, a fullback and a newfound dedication to shed the "soft as Charmin" reputation for that of a 900-pound gorilla. That's what makes this so interesting. Fisher has a win-now mentality during a transition that makes that goal easier said than done.
"I just say we have to play with great toughness," he said. "We have to play with tremendous physicality. I think the teams in this league that win, the teams that win national championships, and the success we had at Florida State, that's how we played. I think there's got to be a certain level -- you got to be able to run the football in this league, and you got to be able to stop the run. You have to be able to create big plays. You have to be tough and skilled. Because you're tough don't mean you can't be skilled. Because you're skilled doesn't mean you can't be tough. I think there's a great combination there to be able to learn and be able to do that."
At other schools, scheme, strength and conditioning and philosophical changes don't happen overnight or during a single offseason. They take time. But a championship-starved fan base and administration, coupled with enough commas in Fisher's paycheck to make a printer run out of ink leaves no room for a slow build.
Early in his tenure, that message seems to have resonated with his players.
"He's a real tough guy," defensive lineman Kingsley Keke said. "He's all about business. He demands excellence, toughness and grit -- all of those good things, both mentally and physically."
Fisher's culture change has bled throughout the program, including the removal of music at practice and a toned down coaches office that's all business and no pleasure -- the feel former coach Kevin Sumlin had before Fisher took over. For business to boom, there has to be some immediate payoff. Something more than 8-4. Something more than the "Sumlin special" -- mostly sizzle with enough taste of steak to keep the ravenous fan base and administration hungry enough to break the bank for one of college football's best.
It's Fisher's time. It's Texas A&M's time. The confluence of $75 million and the self-proclaimed expectation for excellence has resulted in a demand for immediate payoff.
No pressure, Jimbo.
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