Richard Justice: Jimbo may be the best thing to ever happen to football at Texas A&M (and possibly Texas)

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 03: Texas A&M Aggies Head Coach Jimbo Fisher stands with teammates following their 31-0 win over the Sam Houston State Bearkats at Kyle Field on September 03, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Richard Justice: Jimbo may be the best thing to ever happen to football at Texas A&M (and possibly Texas)

Let’s push the pause button for a moment on this college football season and acknowledge that Jimbo Fisher may be the best thing to ever happen to the sport in Texas.

Few coaches have ever entertained us, infuriated us, and at times confused us the way Jimbo has. His news conferences are so many
rat-a-tat-tat stream-of-consciousness thoughts and half thoughts that keeping up is nearly impossible.
Few coaches have ever elevated the sport at their school so quickly and so smoothly, and football was already a big deal at Texas A&M. It’s just that the program wasn’t exactly awash in optimism.
Jimbo changed that one day one. First was the contract, a breathtaking 10-year, $75-million package that thrilled some and infuriated some.
When A&M Chancellor John Sharp was questioned about the wisdom of a 10-year deal, he shot back: “We couldn’t get him to agree to a 15-year deal, so this is the best we got.”
A&M may have gotten $75 million in free advertising in the days that followed, as pretty much everyone with a microphone or a laptop weighed in. As Darrell Royal once said: “Who says it doesn’t pay to advertise? In Colorado, there are 30 mountains taller than Pike’s Peak. Name one.” 
Sure, Aggies are talking about him. Sure they were disappointed about 8-4 in 2021 and really disappointed—okay, ticked off—about the loss to Appalachian State.
If you push them, though, they’ll admit Jimbo has made the whole thing fun. He has pushed Texas A&M football into the national conversation in a way it never was before.
He promised the Aggies were on the verge of whipping Nick Saban’s ass. Even if he believed it, who says such a thing?
And then when Saban said A&M had bought its greatest recruiting class ever last winter, Jimbo went off on him. He barely paused for a breath as he accused Saban of his own unethical behavior.
If you believed Jimbo was a little too worked up, maybe he was. Maybe, as Royal would understand, he was cashing in on free advertising.
On the other hand, reporters in the room swear he was so angry he was almost shaking.
His underlying message was that he wasn’t afraid of Nick Saban because if you’re trying to bring down the big dog, you taunt him, let him know you’re around, rent space in his head.
Even the loss to App State generated tons of exposure for A&M. Not the kind Jimbo wants, but still.
In the end, this is the most fun Aggies have ever had because. He has tapped into something. He has made them believe anything is possible, and it was never that way before.
For a century, A&M almost always played in the shadow of the University of Texas thanks to two brilliant decisions:

  1. A&M joining the Southeastern Conference in 2012 put the Aggies on their way track, carving their own identity apart from the University of Texas. For the first time ever, Texas simply did not matter.
  2. Hired Jimbo and told him him to spend what he needed to spend on assistant coaches and to draw up a wish list for facility upgrades.
    The Aggies aren’t a finished product. They’re young in some important areas, and the passing game needs work. But the defense and special teams are excellent, and most of all, the Aggies showed toughness and resilience.
    “Love the togetherness, love the guys pulling together,” Jimbo said. “I mean, coming off a tough week, come off a tough loss, guys bonded
    Every other college football coach in Texas would love to generate the attention Jimbo generates for A&M. In that way, above and beyond everything else, he gets it.
    He had just about the toughest week a college football coach can have in the days leading up to Saturday’s 17-9 victory over 13th-ranked Miami. For the first time, the knives came out with anonymous sources questioning (a) how much he actually knows about football and (b) did he hold players accountable.
    Miami was just one game, and with Arkansas in Arlington on Saturday followed by road games at Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina, we’ll soon know if the Aggies are turning any kind of corner this season.
If last week wasn’t a wakeup call—and four players were suspended for breaking curfew on Friday night—there may never be one. But here’s another barometer: after the worst week possible, 107,245 show up to Kyle Field, the largest crowd in school history for a non-conference game.
    “That’s why they’re loyal to the school and what we do,” Jimbo said. “They’re not fans. They’re family. There’s a difference. The 12th Man is family. Fans come and go. Family sticks with you, no matter what goes on. Good times, bad times, anything else that happens. And that’s what the 12th Man is about. That’s why I love them and I thank them for it.”

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