TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher reiterated Thursday that he expects to be on the sideline Saturday for the regular-season finale against Louisiana-Monroe.
Many are anticipating it will be his final game with the Seminoles.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that they think Fisher will leave Florida State for Texas A&M and that the school has started the process of vetting potential candidates. They spoke on condition of anonymity because neither Texas A&M nor Florida State has publicly discussed details of the Aggies coaching search.
While Florida State was holding its final practice for Saturday’s game, Texas A&M’s Board of Regents was meeting to discuss the hiring of a new coach. Athletic director Scott Woodward and chancellor John Sharp were also in the meeting when the board went to executive session.
Fisher was seen talking to someone on his phone right before addressing the media.
When asked what he expects the atmosphere to be like on Saturday, Fisher said ”hopefully, great. Cheer loud, guys will play well and we’ll get a bowl game.”
The Seminoles (5-6) need a win on Saturday to become bowl eligible for a 36th consecutive season.
They were ranked third in the AP preseason poll but lost quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama and were 3-6 at one point before winning their last two. Florida State also needs a win on Saturday and in a bowl game to avoid its first losing season since 1976.
If the speculation about Fisher’s future has rattled any of the players, they aren’t saying much. Redshirt sophomore safety Derwin James said rumors about Fisher have happened every season since he’s been there and that it can’t affect the team.
”I don’t know what is going to happen but Jimbo is my head coach right now and he’s trying to keep us motivated,” defensive tackle Wally Aime said.
Fisher would be just the fourth head coach to leave a school where he has won an AP national championship and go directly into another college job. The last to do it was Johnny Majors, who went from Pittsburgh to Tennessee in 1977.
Last December, Fisher signed a contract extension through 2024 that makes him among the highest-paid coaches in the country. He is making $5.7 million this season, which is sixth-highest.
Florida State University president John Thrasher told The Florida Channel that he is hoping to hear about a decision soon.
”Jimbo’s a great football coach and my hope would be that he stays at Florida State University, but if he has other opportunities that are more valuable to him and his family, than I certainly understand that,” Thrasher added.
Fisher has repeatedly said during press conferences that he would not discuss his name being linked to job openings. He also hasn’t given his players or assistants much clarity.
Earlier this week Rick Butts, who is the godfather and guardian of quarterback James Blackman, took to social media saying ”It’s a distraction. Kill the distraction!”
”I for one don’t think it’s fair to the fans or the players to have this thing lingering, just say what it is and keep moving,” Butts also wrote.
Fisher’s silence has already had an impact of recruiting as three players who were verbal commitments have said they have decided to reopen their searches.
On Wednesday an audience member at Fisher’s weekly call-in show asked him ”Where’s the loyalty to the program?”
A school representative quickly took his microphone away and ushered him out of the room, pushing him in the back at least twice.
Rob Wilson, a Florida State athletics spokesman, said the department is aware of the ”unfortunate incident” and that they are reviewing the matter with all involved.
After a loss to Louisville on Oct. 21, Fisher got into a verbal altercation with a fan who kept yelling that it is time to hire new assistant coaches.
Fisher is 83-23 in eight seasons at Florida State. He led the Seminoles to the national championship in 2013, three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and four ACC Atlantic Division crowns.
Since winning 33 of 34 games between 2013 and ’15, the Seminoles have struggled. They are 19-12 in their last 31 games, including 10-10 in the ACC. It marks the first time since 2011 that the Seminoles have not won 10 or more games or qualified for a New Year’s Six bowl game.
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