Let’s start with the Christmas tree, which everyone assumed was the proof that Jimbo Fisher was gone. Yes, an old artificial tree did get tossed to the curb on Shoal Creek Drive in Tallahassee, Fla., on the morning of Dec. 1. Photos of said tree began circulating on social media within hours of its disposal. This, along with a proclamation during a SiriusXM interview the previous day that he’d choose brisket over pulled pork, served in the absence of any official word as proof that Fisher had decided to leave Florida State to coach at Texas A&M.
But it wasn’t true. Not yet, at least. Fisher was in Tallahassee. He was at Doak Campbell Stadium, still thinking he was going to coach the Seminoles the next day in a game against Louisiana-Monroe that had been rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma. After that, he would decide what to do next. Meanwhile, Aggies athletic director Scott Woodward waited. Whether it happened Friday or Saturday or Sunday, Woodward needed Fisher to get on a plane and fly to College Station. The offer had been delivered to Fisher’s agent. Ten years. $75 million. Fully guaranteed. What would happen back in Aggieland if Fisher didn’t get on that plane? Woodward had a list of candidates that would completely underwhelm a fan base desperate for a national title contender. He needed what he called a Rare Air coach—someone who already knew how it felt to hoist a national championship trophy. But Nick Saban wasn’t leaving Alabama. And Urban Meyer wasn’t leaving Ohio State. And Dabo Swinney wasn’t leaving Clemson. Only one other working head coach had breathed that air, and on this Friday morning that guy was dealing with a busted Christmas tree.
Fisher and his wife Candi had bought the artificial evergreen when Fisher was the offensive coordinator at LSU. Damn thing weighed a ton, Fisher recalls. It had come with them to Tallahassee when Fisher was named Bobby Bowden’s offensive coordinator in 2007. Jimbo and Candi’s marriage had ended in 2015, but the tree survived. Until last December. The people Fisher hired to decorate it came, and as they tried to erect it, they realized it was broken beyond repair. They informed Fisher, who instructed them to put up a new tree and throw out the old one. So out went the yuletide beast to become an ever-so-brief Twitter celebrity and eventual souvenir for the ultra-completist Florida State fan who came along and swiped it before the garbage collector arrived. In came a brand spanking new tree.
“That thing stayed up until February,” Fisher says.
Because he had gotten on that plane.
This is all about money, but probably not in the way you think.
At Florida State, Fisher made $5.5 million a year, and that figure was guaranteed through the end of the 2024 season. The son of a coal miner father and a schoolteacher mother from West Virginia was rich by any objective measure. This fact still astounds Fisher, because he never expected to get wealthy coaching football as he transitioned from Samford University quarterback to Samford University student assistant in 1988. He could stay at Florida State for the rest of his career, stay rich and compete for ACC and national titles. So the amount Texas A&M offered mattered less to him than the message it sent. And what was that message?