History says Jimbo Fisher and his massive contract can’t save Texas A&M

Texas A&M has the money. It has the ego, the passion and the motivation. And it certainly has the fan support.

But for decades, Texas A&M has been missing something: the wins.

Enter Jimbo Fisher and his record 10-year, $75 million contract . But money doesn’t solve everything — even in college football.

A&M fans and administrators say this will work. Fisher’s massive contract says this will work.

History says it won’t.

Kevin Sumlin seemed to the be right guy for awhile — remember when A&M went 11-2 in 2012? Johnny Manziel was just a freshman, and he paired with Sumlin to deliver the Aggiest first 10-plus-win season since 1998.

Then again, Texas A&M managed to lose six games with Manziel, arguably the most exciting quarterback in the last half century of college football, on campus. For context, Alabama — who routinely makes less money than the Aggies — has seven losses over the last five seasons.

Here’s the real problem with that six-loss stretch with Manziel under center: It’s the best Texas A&M football has performed since 1995, when it belonged to the Southwest conference. In those days, the Aggies regularly played conference games against the likes of TCU, Houston, Rice and SMU. Lowly Baylor was legitimately a top-4 team in the conference every year, almost by default.

Texas A&M’s best back-to-back seasons record since 1996 (Big 12/SEC era)

Coach

Years

Record

Kevin Sumlin 2013-14

17-9

Kevin Sumlin

2012-13

20-6

Mike Sherman/Kevin Sumlin

2011-12

18-8

R.C. Slocum

2000-01

15-9

R.C. Slocum

1999-2000

15-9

R.C. Slocum

1998-99

19-7

R.C. Slocum

1997-98

20-7

This is the gold standard for a program that spends well over $100 million annually on athletics?

But even with a stronger record in a weaker conference, the Aggies didn’t find national success. From 1986-93, A&M finished first or second in the Southwest Conference on five occasions — three times with an undefeated record — and went on to lose their bowl game. In two of those bowl meetings, the Aggies failed to score a single touchdown.

Then came the Big 12. Apart from occasionally playing spoiler to national championship runs by Oklahoma and Texas, the Aggies rarely made an impact. Their lone conference championship came in 1998, when they upset No. 2 Kansas State in double overtime of the Big 12 title game.

That’s it. And now, 20 years later, the Aggies are still in search of a conference title. Heck, even a division title would do — A&M hasn’t won one of those since ‘98, either.

But the money keeps rolling in.

So what, then, is the ceiling for a program whose best showing in 20 years is almost equal to what got Bo Pelini fired at Nebraska?

A&M fans — and boosters — are hoping Fisher can break through the barrier that’s kept the Aggies cemented in mediocrity for so long. But without another transcendent quarterback coming through College Station, that might not even be possible.

Fisher was outstanding in eight seasons as Florida State’s coach. Or at least that’s what the narrative is. Back in reality, Fisher is a slightly-above-average coach who developed one of the best college quarterbacks in recent memory. Sound familiar, A&M fans?

Fisher obviously had more success at Florida State than Sumlin did at A&M. But the Seminoles struggled to remain nationally relevant after Dabo Swinney’s rise at Clemson and as the ACC became a tougher conference.

Meanwhile, Sumlin was able to tread water in the country’s toughest division and conference. Fisher will soon find out how difficult that is.

Fisher went 27-1 in two seasons with Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston under center. He won a national championship thanks to a world-class offense and a fiery defense. Other than that? Looks a whole lot like Kevin Sumlin’s A&M tenure.

Outside of the two Winston seasons, Fisher’s record at FSU was 56-22. That’s a winning percentage of 72 percent. Sumlin’s win rate at A&M? Only a little worse: 65 percent.

But Fisher never had to annually play Alabama, Auburn or LSU. And he never beat Clemson once Swinney got the Tigers on the national stage in 2015. He will have another chance when the Tigers go to Kyle Field in Week 2, but don’t hold your breath.

And keep in mind — the Aggies have had good coaches before.

Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings won national championships at Alabama. Collectively, they couldn’t win five games per season at Texas A&M.

Sumlin produced the NCAA’s all-time leading passer at Houston. He saw three blue-chip quarterbacks transfer out of the program at Texas A&M.

The only silver lining beyond blind optimism? The Aggies have to be trending in the right direction. Because for how much money that athletic department spends and makes, things couldn’t possibly get any worse.

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