The Times West Virginian

January 9, 2014

Jimbo Fisher earns his spot at the pinnacle of college football

Times West Virginian

— Another West Virginia coach has reached the pinnacle of major college football.

Clarksburg’s Jimbo Fisher is there after his Florida State University team capped a 14-0 season Monday night with a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS championship game.

After a season of one-sided wins, the victory in the championship game didn’t come easily for Fisher and the Seminoles. They trailed by 18 points and scored the winning touchdown with only 13 seconds remaining.

Still, Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference snapped the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year national title streak.

“The SEC is great football. I coached in that league for 13 years, I respect every bit of it,” Fisher said, “but there’s some other folks in this country that can play some football, too.”

And he knows another coach from North Central West Virginia, Monongah High School graduate Nick Saban, was a big part of the SEC’s run. He coached Alabama to national titles capping the 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons after winning a national championship at LSU to end the 2003 campaign.

Part of Fisher’s long preparation to become a successful head coach involved working under Saban at LSU.

Fisher was a quarterback at Clarksburg’s Liberty High School before going to Salem, where he played quarterback under coach Terry Bowden.

In 1985, a huge crowd at Fairmont State watched Fisher help Salem pull away late for a 43-24 win in a battle of two talented West Virginia Conference opponents.

When Bowden left for Samford University, Fisher transferred to play his final season there and was named Division III National Player of the Year.

After a year in the the Arena Football League, Fisher rejoined Bowden at Samford and began his coaching career.

He started as a graduate assistant coach working with quarterbacks from 1988-1990.

“You were 23 years old and you didn’t know you didn’t know,” Fisher said in a December interview with The Charleston Gazette. “We were just flying around and doing everything and just happy to have any kind of job. I look back and some of the most fun was in those early, early years — you were finding out if you had what it took to be a coach, and if you really loved the lifestyle of that whole profession.”

He did.

Fisher became the full-time offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Samford. He then moved with Bowden to Auburn, where he coached quarterbacks.

Fisher also coached quarterbacks for one season at Cincinnati before joining Saban's new staff at LSU in 2000, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Fisher held the same responsibilities when he moved to Florida State in 2007. He was also named “head coach in waiting,” eventually taking over for Bobby Bowden after FSU’s win over West Virginia University in the Gator Bowl to end the 2009 season.

Fisher’s first four Florida State teams posted a combined 45-10 record with four bowl wins.

The challenge is now to stay on top, and Fisher eagerly accepts it.

“I don’t care how talented you are,” Fisher said Tuesday. “This team has to go back, get its own identity, get its own leadership and develop that, and that’s going to be our challenge now. It’s how hungry can you stay to be able to do it over and over again, and that’s going to be the challenge and our mindset and that’s going to be my temperament going in, to be able to set that stage so we can do that and stay on top and be very competitive at the top.”

He noted that “our nature as humans, it’s not to grind; it’s not to push. That’s why there is only one champion at the end.”

Fisher’s history shows that’s a trap he won’t fall into entering only his fifth season as a head coach with a national championship to his credit.