Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has won. A lot. Since 2010, only nine FBS programs -- none from the ACC -- have more total wins than Fisher. Only two teams from the SEC, Alabama and LSU, have more wins during the same stretch. Fisher has won two Atlantic Division championships in his three seasons. He has won the school’s first ACC title since 2005. He has won back-to-back games against rival Florida.
He just hasn’t won over the entire fan base.
And considering the once-spoiled fan base he’s working for, he probably never will.
As the Seminoles prepare to face MAC champion Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, they do so led by a man who could arguably be called the least popular coach in a BCS bowl game this year. The ACC’s championship coach came in third place in the league’s coach of the year voting, receiving only five votes and falling behind Duke’s David Cutliffe and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney -- two coaches Fisher beat this year.
Clearly, for some, that wasn’t enough.
FSU fans nearly lost their minds on Oct. 6 when the No. 3-ranked Noles lost at NC State and their national title hopes crashed once again. Many have long clamored for Fisher to hire an offensive coordinator. And despite the potential for a 12-win season that includes a BCS bowl win, there has still been some grumbling this season.
“The overall tone of the big-time guys is the jury is still out,” one longtime Florida State booster said of Fisher. “By no means do they want to throw him out. Of course, after a loss they’ll yell and jump and scream and say, 'He's the worst coach in America, get rid of him,' but they calm down pretty quickly. The overall tone is next year is really going to be a watershed year for him. They’ve given him everything he wants. Now it’s time to put the product together on the field.”
Fisher said he isn’t deterred in the slightest by the criticism he’s received because he is steadfast in his belief that he is doing the right things to build a program. Florida State has brought in back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes, and this year FSU currently has the No. 11 recruiting class in the country. Fisher is more concerned about sustaining success than a fleeting moment of it.
He guessed that it’s only about 10 percent of the fan base that is truly disgruntled.
“You’ve just got to block it out and know that you’re doing the right things,” Fisher said. “If we keep winning 11, 12 games a year, having those seasons, we’re going to win one, just like they did in that 14-year run. They still won two national championships in 14 years in that dominant run. If we can maintain winning those kinds of games and being up there, we’re going to have a chance to win one and play for one. You just don’t win national championships every year.”
“People ask me, ‘Are you disappointed?’” he said. “I’m not disappointed at all. I think we’ve had a tremendous season. Am I satisfied? No. I’m not satisfied because we want to win a national championship, but I’m very happy with where our program’s going and the way we’re recruiting and the way we’re playing. You have to learn to win a conference championship before you win a national championship. You can have those magical seasons and then fall back, and go back to eight wins, or seven wins or five wins and get fired. I don’t want to do that. I want this program to have 11, 12 wins every year, and on certain years we’ll win those national championships.”
The question is whether FSU fans have the patience to wait for one.
“Jimbo came in with a plan, and he has built a structure in this program from the ground up in the Saban mold, that in my humble opinion is the right approach,” said the booster, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have a nutritionist, we have a psychologist, we have accountability, we have strength and conditioning. The program, from a structural perspective, has improved leaps and bounds. So the people that are calling for his head after an 11-win season, a conference championship and a BCS bowl -- none of which we’ve sniffed in 10 years -- to me are a little out of their minds.”