Jimbo Fisher leaving Florida State to become head coach at Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher, April 2015. Image AP.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Jimbo Fisher, who coached Florida State to its third national title in 2013 and opened this season with his team ranked in the top five, is leaving to take the same job at Texas A&M.

Fisher told university President John Thrasher on Friday that he was resigning to accept Texas A&M’s offer.

“I believe Texas A&M is getting one of the best coaches in college football. We appreciate all he has done for our program and wish him and his family great success moving forward,” Thrasher said in a statement that closed days of speculation about Fisher’s future.

Fisher goes to a program that has lofty hopes amid a drought: Texas A&M last won a conference championship in 1998, when it was in the Big 12. The school’s only national title came in 1939. Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said after Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting that expectations were “nothing serious. We just want him to win a national championship.”

Fisher is just the fourth head coach to leave a school where he has won an AP national championship and go directly to another college job. The last to do it was Johnny Majors, who went from Pittsburgh to Tennessee in 1977.

Florida State (5-6) faces Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday and needs a win to be bowl eligible for a 36th consecutive season. Defensive line coach Odell Haggins will be the interim coach.

“President Thrasher and I have worked together through this challenging period while coach Fisher was making a decision, and I appreciate the cooperation, support and leadership he has provided,” athletic director Stan Wilcox said. “We are extremely pleased by the quality of individuals who have already expressed interest in being the head coach at Florida State University. I am confident we will fill the position very soon.”

The Seminoles were ranked third in the preseason Top 25 but lost quarterback Deondre Francois in the opening loss against Alabama and were 3-6 at one point before winning their last two. Florida State is trying to avoid its first losing season since 1976.

Fisher, who had dodged questions about his interest in Texas A&M for the last two weeks, said as recently as Thursday that he intended to coach on Saturday . However, growing frustration with the program from fans, alumni and parents of players made that unlikely. Junior linebacker Josh Sweat said earlier in the week that players had discussed the rumors but that they were trying to maintain the focus on this week’s game.

“We still have to play regardless of what happens. Stay or leave it’s about the next game,” Sweat said. “We are still practicing and having fun.”

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.

Last December, Fisher signed a contract extension through 2024 that made him among the highest-paid coaches in the country. He was making $5.7 million this season, sixth-highest.

Yet it was the third straight year that Fisher’s name was linked with a Southeastern Conference program. He was mentioned the last two years as a candidate at LSU, where he spent seven seasons as the offensive coordinator (2000-06). While at LSU he also worked with Scott Woodward, now the athletic director at Texas A&M. The Aggies’ are expected to approve Fisher’s hiring on Monday.

Sumlin had two years remaining on his contract, which calls for a $10 million buyout to be paid within 60 days of his termination. He led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in his first season in 2012, including 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference which included a win at top-ranked Alabama. Sumlin wasn’t able to equal or surpass that the rest of his tenure.

Texas A&M has invested heavily in facilities the past five years, including a football operations center. Fisher has spoken about his desire for Florida State to add its own football-only building.

This marks the first time since after the 1975 season that Florida State has had to embark on a coaching search, when it went on to hire Bobby Bowden. Fisher came to Florida State as offensive coordinator in 2007 and was named the head coach in waiting following that season.

Possible candidates could include Oregon’s Willie Taggart and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente. Taggart, who grew up in Bradenton, Florida, went 7-5 in his first season at Oregon. He previously spent four seasons at South Florida where he took a team that was 2-10 in 2013 to 10-2 and a tie for the American Athletic Conference East Division title in 2016.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said that Fisher did an unbelievable job. Swinney and Fisher will cross paths next season when Texas A&M hosts Clemson.

“Evidently he feels like that’s the right move for him and his family and the right time to do so,” Swinney said at an ACC title game news conference. “Florida State is Florida State. They’ll hire a great coach. I don’t have any doubt about that.”

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