Clock ticking on Noles' Fisher

Staff WriterApril 25, 2010 

If history repeats itself, and it often does in college sports, John James "Jimbo" Fisher is getting paid a fortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That's the way it generally pans out for coaches who replace legends. It's also a pattern Fisher understood when he agreed to follow Bobby Bowden on Florida State football's hot seat.

"But it's not easy to win anywhere or under any circumstances," Fisher said when the decision basically was made by the school for Bowden to step down after the 2009 season.

That's true enough. It's also important to point out that if Fisher is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he's at least there with the right team.

By almost any definition directly related to personnel, depth, talent or scheduling, Fisher's first Seminole team is better equipped to win big than any FSU team since at least 2004 and possibly 2001.

While grooming for the job as offensive coordinator the past three seasons, Fisher also groomed redshirt junior Christian Ponder to be the quarterback entrusted with getting the team back into the national top 10.

With 22 career starts, Ponder will be the centerpiece of the ACC's most experienced offensive team, a unit that includes nine other starters and three NFL interior line prospects.

The defense is less established, but there's a veteran defensive front, and Bowden spent much of his final two years rededicated to recruiting.

To his credit, Fisher readily admits that many of the right parts are in place. Then again, what's the use in poor-mouthing your team when the world knows you're on a time clock from the opening kickoff?

And to Bowden's credit, he's been true to his vow to stay out of Fisher's way. Since officially stepping down after a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia, the 80-year-old Bowden has made himself scarce on campus.

"We talk some, but he always said that when he retired, he didn't want to come around all the time for the first year or so," Fisher said. "We did talk a lot before spring drills, but not so much since."

In 34 seasons at FSU, Bowden went 316-97-4. In three of his final four seasons, though, the Seminoles finished no better than 7-6 overall.

Two or three of those 7-6 finishes won't buy Fisher 34 years of job security. They'll buy him an exit ticket and likely will turn the Seminoles football job into a walking wasp's nest for a few years to come.

Fisher's fate will be among the closely watched and discussed college football topics this season and beyond.

By going the coach-in-waiting route, Florida State gambled in the biggest possible way by never opening the door to other interested job candidates. It could turn out to be a mistake that haunts both parties long after Bowden's national championships fade from public memory.

And if the Fisher era doesn't get off to a sweet start, it'll likely have a sour ending.

caultontudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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