By KAREEM COPELAND
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher signed a contract extension Tuesday that could keep him with the Seminoles through 2018 — away from Texas.
The school announced the deal a few hours before Fisher and his top-ranked Seminoles left Tallahassee, Fla., for southern California, where they’ll play No. 2 Auburn for the national title on Monday night.
“We’re blessed that we got that out of the way so we can focus on winning a national championship,” Fisher said during a news conference at Downtown Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
Texas reportedly has interest in Fisher replacing coach Mack Brown.
“I think that there’s a sense of relief that’s it’s done but anytime you’re one of the top coaches in the country and there’s a top program that’s open, you’re going to be on the list because that institution, Texas, can go and get basically anybody they want,” Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said. “But I know Jimbo, he’s a Seminole. He wants to be with Florida State and we want him to be with Florida State.”
Fisher and Wilcox said the terms of the deal, which were not released, were agreed upon about three weeks ago.
“But when lawyers get involved, you know how things can take a little while? It wasn’t anything bad it was just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. And then we practiced all the way up until Monday. I was leaving at 6:30 in the morning, getting home 11:30 I wasn’t thinking about anything. We got the contract today. The first time I had a chance to sign it.”
Fisher’s previous deal ran through 2015 and paid $2.75 million annually. The new deal reportedly pays him about $4.1 million per season.
Fisher wouldn’t be the first college coach to sign a new deal and then bolt for another job shortly after, but the timing of this does make it seem that he could be off the market.
“It’s good that we’re able to get it done before the championship game,” Wilcox said.
The Seminoles have returned to national prominence in four seasons under Fisher after Florida State posted 7-6 records in three of the last four seasons with coach Bobby Bowden. Florida State went undefeated during the regular season for the first time since 1999 and has won back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference championships. The program hadn’t won consecutive conference titles since 2002-03.
Fisher was anointed coach-in-waiting when hired as offensive coordinator in 2007. He previously won a national championship as the LSU offensive coordinator in 2003 with Nick Sabin.
“He hasn’t failed to do anything I didn’t think he could do,” Bowden told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s done an excellent job.
“You never know what kind of head coach a guy’s going to be when he comes from an assistant. … He’s passed the test in any arena he’s been in.”
Bowden has known of Fisher since he was a quarterback at Samford playing for his son Terry Bowden. Fisher joined the Samford coaching staff in 1988 and Tommy Bowden sung his praises back then.
Bowden warned the university during the season that it better lock up Fisher long term before other programs tried to steal him away.
“That’s what happens,” Bowden said. “Having the success he has had, every job that comes open his name was going to be in it. Whether he wants to be in it or not.
“I was hoping he would stay where he is. I really think, to win, there’s a better opportunity at Florida State than Texas. That’s because of the strength of schedule and everything they have to play out there and the competition in that state. I was glad he chose to stay here because that money can really attract you.”