Texas A&M Aggies football coach Jimbo Fisher speaks to Nick Saban and says ‘it’s time to shut up and play’
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Jimbo Fisher feels the best he has about the trajectory of Texas A&M’s football program, and he’s ready for history to become what the Aggies do on the field, not its take. off-season spat with former boss Nick Saban.
“We’re talented and have established that we can start to pile a lot of good guys into our program,” Fisher told ESPN on Friday. “We still have big challenges this year. We have to prove it. Hey, it’s time to shut up and play, go play. Don’t worry about what people say. Don’t worry about what happens. spent this summer between me and Nick.
“We feel really good where we are going.”
The Aggies, ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll, were 8-4 a year ago after narrowly missing the college football playoffs in the 2020 COVID-19 season. Despite a rocky season a year ago, Fisher became the first of Saban’s former assistants to beat him when Texas A&M upset No. 1 Alabama 41-38 at Kyle Field. But the real fireworks came this offseason after Texas A&M landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which included eight of ESPN’s top 30 prospects nationally.
Saban, speaking at a business meeting in Birmingham in May, said Texas A&M “has bought every player” in its 2022 signing class. Fisher called a press conference the next day and said issued a fiery rebuttal. He called Saban’s comments “despicable” and called him “narcissistic”. He also suggested reporters look into Saban’s recruitment practices. Saban then apologized for choosing anyone, but said his problem was any school that used NIL as a recruitment incentive.
During a meeting with ESPN on Friday, Fisher discussed several things regarding his spat with Saban. Fisher pointed out that he wasn’t mad about it anymore and never had a problem with Saban, who Fisher worked for as an offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000 to 2004.
“What people don’t realize is that it’s not like we talked a lot,” Fisher said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve probably spoken on the phone five different times. He might call me about something or need a favor, which is always fine. I don’t have a problem with that , and I would always like to help if that were the case.”
But with rivalries and recruiting battles being so intense within the SEC, Fisher joked that none of the coaches are what you would call phone buddies, no matter how long they’ve been together. during previous stops.
“Nick and I don’t have time to call each other,” Fisher said. “It has nothing to do with liking or disliking. I mean, what am I going to say if I call him — ‘Our recruiting is going well. How’s yours?’ Damn, we’re hiring the same fucking guys.”
More than anything, Fisher said what triggered him was Saban’s use of the word “bought,” and he also took offense to any suggestion that Texas A&M ended up with such a talented class just because she was circumventing the rules of NIL.
“All of a sudden it’s bad because we got a No. 1 class after going 8-4?” said Fisher. “Look around. When I was at LSU in 2001 (with Saban), we got the No. 1 class and were 8-4 the year before. It’s happened in other places. Alabama had a great class after graduating 7-6 in Nick is in first grade Why is it different to us So when someone shoots you and it’s true that’s one thing If that isn’t true, it’s different. If I know I’m right – and I learned that from my mom and dad – then hang in there.
“That’s what’s wrong with the world today. We compromise too much.”
Fisher reiterated that he considered Saban’s comments a personal insult to the Texas A&M program, its players, and their families, particularly the use of the word “bought.”
“We know what that meant,” Fisher said. “It is what it is and you move on. I don’t hold any hard feelings, but that’s what triggered me because everyone in this business knows what it means.”
Fisher said he and Saban spoke briefly at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., but have not spoken since. As to whether they will sit down and talk more in depth in the future, Fisher said. “I don’t know. Right now we’re probably too busy doing what we’re doing.”
Saban called Fisher personally to apologize after the initial comments, and Fisher said at the time that he didn’t return the call and added, “We’re done.”
But when asked on Friday if their relationship could survive, Fisher said, “I don’t know. We’ll see. He said his thing, and I said, ‘OK,’ and we’re past that point and that. That’s the last time we spoke. (at meetings). I never say never anything in this business. You never know what’s going on with relationships, but we’re never together except in a setting. professional.
They’ll be back together, albeit on opposite sidelines, when Texas A&M travels to Alabama on Oct. 8 in what will be college football’s most anticipated game of the year.
“It won’t be personal when we face Alabama,” Fisher said. “It’s about the players and the team. It’s never personal to me, whether it’s Nick Saban or my brother or my best friend on the other side. I’m going to compete the same way.”
Fisher, who was asked if he regretted everything he said during his emotionally charged press conference in May, replied: “Hey, you say what you say. I’m going back to what I’m saying. I said earlier, and that’s how I was raised. When someone says something it’s not true, you stand your ground. Consequences are consequences.
“Nick and I don’t have time to call each other. It has nothing to do with liking or disliking. I mean, what am I going to say if I calls — ‘Our recruitment is going well. How’s yours going? Damn, we’re recruiting the same fucking guys.’
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M coach
Fisher said he heard of many in and around college football, especially from football coaches, after taking Saban to task in May.
“Yeah, I heard a lot of people, but I’m not going to say everything they told me,” Fisher said.
Several of his players also came up to him and thanked him for having the back of the program.
“That’s the type of coach he is. He’s always going to defend you, always be there for you 100 percent, and we know that as players,” Texas A&M junior running back Devon said Friday. Achane to ESPN. “I wasn’t shocked by anything he said because I know he’s always going to defend us, and as players the least we can do is go even harder for him. There is a bond in this team, and a lot of that comes down to the coach.”
The win over Alabama last season was a factor in Texas A&M recruiting so well, Fisher said, but he thinks an even bigger one was finishing 9-1 in 2000 while playing an all-SEC schedule and missing just the college football playoffs. Fisher still thinks that team was the second-best team in the country that season.
“Beating Alabama, a really good Alabama team, shows what we’re capable of,” Fisher said. “It sends a message, but at the same time you can’t just beat Bama and not finish the regular season. It’s something we still have to learn to do, deal with success, deal with failure and keep going. But it shows that we are talented enough to be there and win these games.”
And the first part is always about winning key recruiting battles.
“We are exactly where we knew we were likely to be right now,” Fisher said. “What I mean by that is we had to make it clear to some people that we could win a championship here. I had won one (at Florida State), but people are seeing it now. Players from the state, the first year or two, I didn’t know. Now the guys want to come here. They don’t want to leave the state.
Right away, that freshman class impacted how the Aggies have practiced this preseason.
“It’s complacency eliminated, because competition eliminates complacency, isn’t it?” said Fisher. “We’re as deep as we’ve been in every position, and you better not take a day off or you’ll lose your job.”
Fisher, entering his fifth season at Texas A&M, has been at the top of LSU’s head coaches’ wish list a few times over the past few years. He received overtures again this past offseason after Ed Orgeron was ousted. Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly ended up getting the job.
Fisher smiled when asked how close he was to going to LSU this time.
“Like I’ve told everyone, I love being here. I was happy to be here and I was going to stay,” said Fisher, who was overwhelmed with financial support from Texas A&M.
The Aggies are spending $160 million to renovate their football facilities, and in the past few months they’ve had donor checks for $25 million, $15 million, $15 million, $7.5 million and $2 million for soccer. The new renovations will include a 160-meter indoor training facility, two giant virtual walk-through rooms with LED screens spanning the length of the room and an MRI machine at Kyle Field.
“We have everything we need here,” Fisher said. “I love what I do, and we have things to do here that I think we can do.