Berry Tramel: Jimbo Fisher has a tough task ahead
In college, you don't want to replace the legend. You want to replace the guy who replaced the legend. But Fisher is replacing a legend at Florida State: Bobby Bowden
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.
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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.