There was no confusion about what Jimbo Fisher had to do in his first season replacing legendary coach Bobby Bowden -- win. Quickly.
In his first season as a head coach -- not just at Florida State, but anywhere -- Fisher has brought the program back to national relevance with a win over rival Florida and an appearance in the ACC championship game. Not even Bowden was able to win his season opener or beat Florida on his first try. Replacing a coaching legend isn’t easy, but Fisher said some of the pressure has been lifted thanks to the immediate success. Then again, that success has re-established the standard at a program where championships were once the norm.
“I think at Florida State the bar is always high,” Fisher said. “That's what you're expected. That's one of the reasons this is such a great job. I think it takes [the pressure] off in the part they realize that our staff and the things we're doing do work and we can have success. Hopefully, that will bring in more recruits and more things.
“The bottom line is you've got to win anyway. That's the name of the game. And hopefully it will just help us move in the direction and have the confidence and the expectation to win, like our players do.”
After this year, the fans will expect it, too.
With his Oct. 16 win over Boston College, Fisher became just the second coach at FSU to be assured of a bowl appearance in his first season, along with Larry Jones. Fisher led the Noles to a 3-2 road record this year and a 6-1 mark at home, but no win was bigger than the one over Florida this past weekend. Despite the fact Florida is having a down year, it was still a sign in a shift of balance of power within the state. The No. 21 Noles are the only team in the state still ranked in the BCS standings.
“I think it's huge,” Fisher said. “I think it's huge because, you know, Florida – usually Florida is at the top of the country right in the last few years, and that's the standard we're trying to get back to and where we want to be. But it's also your archrival. So you have to keep up with the guy who's your neighbor and your rival. That's how you measure Florida State, not only with the ACC and your divisional championships and all that within the conference, but you have two great state rivals in Florida and Miami. So you have to keep up with them because the Florida State fan base, that's what you're measured by.”
And in just one season, Fisher has stacked up. To those within the program, it came as no surprise.
“Being around him for the three years prior to taking over, we knew what he demanded from this team and what he demanded from me personally,” said quarterback Christian Ponder. “He’s got high expectations and he’s going to make sure the team reaches those expectations. He did a great job preparing us all year and pushing us to get to where we are.”