NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Coach Jimbo Fisher says he doesn't really care who the Florida State Seminoles are playing Monday for the BCS national championship.
He contends that the game is no bigger because the No. 1 Seminoles are playing the No. 2 Auburn Tigers.
He claims the game is no more meaningful just because FSU has a chance to end the Southeastern Conference's near decade of dominance in the BCS National Championship Game.
"Whether it's the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, it doesn't concern me," Jimbo asserted Sunday at the final news conference before Monday's national title game in the storied Rose Bowl. "I don't look at things that way."
If you believe that, I've got some property in pricey, picturesque Pasadena I'll sell you for a buck an acre. Jimbo wants to beat the SEC so bad, he can't stand it.
When he was a kid growing up in little Clarksburg, W.V., he dreamed of playing football in the SEC. When he started his career as a grad assistant at tiny Samford College, he dreamed of coaching in the SEC. Now, after cutting his teeth as an assistant coach in the SEC at Auburn and LSU, he is on college coaching's grandest stage.
Fisher and his Seminoles have a chance to finally put a stop to the SEC's unprecedented run of seven straight national championships. Ever since the streak started with Urban Meyer's Gators in 2007, the SEC and its arrogant fans have been utterly and justifiably intolerable. They act as if no other team from any other conference has the talent, tradition, speed and coaching acumen to compete with the SEC for the national championship.
This is where Jimbo comes in and why I believe he is the chosen one who will end the SEC's insufferable dynasty of dominance. To beat the SEC, you have to BE the SEC — and that is exactly what Jimbo personifies. As I've said since he took over at FSU, Jimbo's goal has been to build an SEC-type powerhouse in the ACC.
When Jimbo replaced the iconic Bobby Bowden he knew exactly what needed to be done; he knew the Seminoles must be modernized and SEC-i-fied. Fisher objects today when it is suggested he built his program in the image of the most dynamic league in the history of college football, but when he first took the job at FSU he did exactly that
"It's not just the athletes, it's the programs," Fisher told me during his first year on the job when I asked him about the SEC's power and influence. "It's the money that's spent in the programs, the money that's spent in player development, the money that's spent all the way around. That's what we're embarking on at Florida State."
Fisher has prodded and pressured FSU's administration to spend more money on infrastructure and facilities such as the program's recently constructed $15 million indoor practice facility. When Fisher took over, the Seminoles went from three strength and conditioning coaches to eight and also hired a bevy of sports psychologists, nutritionists and kinesiologists. Fisher has even used the latest GPS technology during training drills to keep track of a player's fatigue level during practice so he can tell when the player is not giving his all.
"It's more than Xs and Os," Fisher says. "To me, off the field is more critical than what happens on the field, because if you get them right off the field, the on-the-field things become much easier."
It's no secret that Fisher learned his craft at the knee of SEC's lion king — Alabama coach Nick Saban. Fisher spent five years working as Saban's offensive coordinator at LSU — a stint that culminated with the Tigers winning the 2003 national championship. Fisher has three former Saban assistants on his staff, including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
When Pruitt sat down at his first FSU coach's meeting after being hired after last season, he thought he'd stepped into a time machine and been transported to Tuscaloosa.
"Jimbo started talking," Pruitt said, "and it was like I was back at Alabama."
Thankfully, Fisher is much more charming and disarming than Saban. In fact, he seems to be the perfect blend of his two most influential mentors. He combines the high-tech organizational skills of Saban with the down-home demeanor of Bowden.
"I'm not Coach Bowden," Fisher says. "I don't want to be Coach Bowden. I can't be Coach Bowden. I don't try to be Coach Bowden or Coach Saban. I just try to be Jimbo."
These days, it's good to be Jimbo, who has a date with destiny tonight.
You have created this Jimbo monster.
Now he's coming to conquer you.
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