Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jimbo Fisher replaces Bobby Bowden at Florida State with the legend's support

For Jimbo Fisher, everything about his job at Florida State is suddenly far larger.

His responsibilities. His office space. His compensation. And, oh yeah, the pressure to win big, which will be increased by this little fact: Fisher is following a legend in Bobby Bowden.

"Don't fear it," said Fisher, who officially will be introduced today as the Seminoles' new head football coach after two seasons as the designated heir. His five-year, $1.8 million contract went into effect Tuesday. "Like I tell our kids, 'If you're scared, buy a dog.' This game is all (about) challenges. … You've got to embrace those challenges."

As if re-establishing FSU's storied program after nearly a decade absence from the national championship picture isn't enough, now he must do that while standing in the shadow cast by a Hall of Fame coach who became synonymous with the school and helped raise its profile internationally.

That's not an easy task.

Just ask Earle Bruce, who followed Woody Hayes at Ohio State. Or ask Gene Bartow, who followed John Wooden as the UCLA basketball coach.

"I figure this nostalgia for Coach Wooden will pass in about a year," Bartow told Sports Illustrated in his first season in Westwood in 1975, "… as long as UCLA keeps winning. … But they love him here, don't they?"

Bartow won plenty. He went 52-9 in two seasons and made a Final Four, but that wasn't Wooden-esque. That guy won 10 national titles in 12 years. Bartow left Westwood to become the athletic director and basketball coach at Alabama-Birmingham in 1977. He was recently inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

Or ask Ray Perkins, who left the NFL's New York Giants to return to his alma mater, Alabama, in 1983 to replace the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.

"Call me crazy if you will or if you want, but I wanted to be the guy who followed Coach Bryant," Perkins said in a recent interview. "I considered it a great honor to do so because you're talking about, in my mind anyway, the greatest coach who ever lived."

But when the Crimson Tide didn't win SEC titles, let alone national titles as it had done regularly during Bear's era (1958-1982), Perkins had to bear barbs and comparisons.

"There's supposed to be that," he said. "People are so used to it being done a certain way for so long and it being successful and the minute it doesn't work, that's when you're going to get the most criticism. And I understood that."

Before he died, Bryant predicted life for Perkins would be easier since his final Tide team was a pedestrian 8-4, including a win in the Liberty Bowl, and just 3-3 in the SEC.

It didn't quite work out that way. Perkins was 32-15-1 in four years, going 3-0 in bowls before leaving Tuscaloosa to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not bad. But …

Perkins was measured by the best, not the worst, of the Bear.

"It's not only him as a coach," Perkins said. "I think what's going to be remembered forever is him as the man."

That can make it even tougher for the next guy regardless of his success on Saturdays. Bryant, who died shortly after retiring, had told Perkins he had to do things his own way.

It's the one piece of advice Perkins would offer to Fisher.

But with a couple years to ruminate on this situation, Fisher said he never considered trying to be a clone of Bobby Bowden or his other mentor, Nick Saban.

"(I'll) try to apply some principles and values they've taught me, but be myself," he said. "Be who I am."

For his part, Bowden said he hopes to make that easier for Fisher by distancing himself from Tallahassee so as not to be a constant, palpable reminder of the past beyond the bronze statue in front of the athletic department offices and the football field that bears his name.

"When I leave a job, I've always felt like I ought to get out of town and let the other guy have a free reign instead of people saying, 'Well this is what Bobby would have done,' or, 'Why didn't you do this? Bobby did that,' " he said. "I don't want that to occur."

Bowden and wife Ann will keep their house in Tallahassee but plan to leave soon for their beach home in Panama City. He said he might stay away for at least a year, rooting for the Seminoles from his living room sofa. Bowden, however, said he would remain a resource for his successor.

"We've talked about that," Fisher said. "They bought him a cell phone at Christmas so I can get him. I've got to teach him how to use it."

"It's always been a difficult thing down through history and there's a minimum number of people who can get it done," Bowden said of following a coach who has succeeded for years at one school. "I think Jimbo can."

At his core, Fisher is a competitor who welcomes and thrives on a challenge.

No matter what it is.

"I'm not patting myself on the back, but whoever thought a coal miner's son from West Virginia who had to drive 6 miles to town would ever be fortunate enough to be where I'm at?" Fisher said. "That was a challenge in itself. It's the way you've got to look at it. You've got to fight and you've got to claw."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Jimbo Fisher replaces Bobby Bowden at Florida State with the legend's support 01/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. repeats as Solheim Cup champion

    Golf

    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Lexi Thompson set the tone by rallying from four holes down. The rest of the Americans took it from there and restored their dominance in the Solheim Cup

    Lexi Thompson, left, comes back from four holes down to halve the day’s first singles match with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist to set the tone for the United States.
  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Demar Dotson (mild groin strain) expected back for opener

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs got good news Sunday on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI exam showed only a mild right groin sprain and who should be back at practice next week.

    Tackle Demar Dotson has only a mild groin strain.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 4, 2017.