In college, you don't want to replace the legend. You want to replace the guy who replaced the legend.
Or, in the case of Bob Stoops, replace the guy who replaced the guy who replaced the guy who replaced the legend.
Some coaches prosper in the footsteps of epic coaches. Tom Osborne did OK for himself in the wake of Bob Devaney and John Robinson did fine replacing John McKay.
But generally, it's a thankless task. Earle Bruce won more than 75 percent of his games and was asked to leave Ohio State, primarily because he wasn't Woody Hayes. Fred Akers won 73 percent of his games and had a winning record against Oklahoma, but Texans couldn't forgive him for not being Darrell Royal.
So good luck to Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, which has played one football game since 1975 without Bobby Bowden as head coach. That game was last Saturday, when Fisher debuted with a 59-6 rout of Samford, making him 388 victories shy of his predecessor. Bowden reluctantly retired after last season, with a record of 389-129-4.
Fisher Game No. 2 comes Saturday in Norman, against the Sooners.
Fisher has a southern name and a southern football team at his charge because of a most southern tradition. Family ties.
We all thought one of Bobby's boys — Jeff or Tommy or Terry — would succeed the old man. But Jeff was part of the Florida State staff that let the program wither this last decade, and Tommy got ousted at Clemson despite a decent run, and Terry lost his way amid scandal at Auburn.
So Florida State turned to Fisher, who is Bowden in all but name.
Fisher grew up in Clarksburg, W.Va., and played quarterback at Salem College for Terry Bowden. When Bowden went to Samford (Bobby's alma mater), Fisher transferred, too, for his senior year and became the NCAA Division III national player of the year.
Fisher joined Bowden's staff in 1989 and followed Bowden to Auburn, where he coached quarterbacks for six years.
After seven years at LSU, Fisher was asked to come to Florida State as offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting.
The heir-apparent approach doesn't have a track record. Too early to tell how it will go at Wisconsin (Bret Bielema), Purdue (Danny Hope) and Kentucky (Joker Phillips). And Texas' Mack Brown and Maryland's Ralph Friedgen haven't had the decency to yet step aside for Will Muschamp and James Franklin, respectively.
Who knows? Maybe the coach-designate plan is a great antidote for the replacing-a-legend guys.
"It definitely made the transition a lot easier for us, having Coach Fisher in the program for three years," said FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. "There's a lot less pressure on us."
Stoops said he's glad he didn't replace a legend. Even joked that he might not have taken the OU job had it been vacated by Bud Wilkinson or Barry Switzer.
"Jimbo, what I feel helps, he's been there," Stoops said. "He understands the personality of the team."
The same could have been said about any assistant who was promoted from within. Osborne was a long-time Nebraska lieutenant. But Gomer Jones was a long-time Wilkinson aide, and Ray Goff was a Vince Dooley man, and Bob Davie was on Lou Holtz's staff. So familiarity is no golden ticket.
But the Bowden family blessing — even when Bobby left with his feelings hurt that Florida State didn't allow him one last farewell season — can't hurt.
"There's never been ill will inside our relationship," Fisher said. "We all know that. That has helped."
The strained relations that can arise during coach-in-waiting situations apparently never took root in Tallahassee.
"I don't think it was ever strange for us," Ponder said. "Coach Bowden was always the leader."
But now Fisher is in charge. He doesn't seem tied to the old ways. Hired Mark Stoops away from Arizona as defensive coordinator. Suggests that FSU's malaise the last decade stems from stodginess.
Fisher said sometimes successful programs develop a don't-change mentality. "You constantly have to change," Fisher said.
From 1987 through the 2000 regular season, Florida State lost 19 games in 14 years, a period of sustained excellence that surpasses even Wilkinson's and Switzer's greatest runs.
But in the nine seasons after Bowden lost the 2000 national title game to OU, the Seminoles lost 42 games.
It was past time for Bowden to go. And time for someone — his son's protÃ©gÃ© — to try on some very big shoes.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.