Florida State president John Thrasher defends school’s football facilities
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State President John Thrasher believes his football facilities compare favorably to any in the country, and there is still some bad blood between he and Jimbo Fisher.
When Fisher jetted out of Tallahassee to take the Texas A&M job, he fired some stinging parting shots, painting a picture of Seminole program in dire need of facility upgrades.
“My view of Jimbo was he wanted to model things after Nick Saban and the SEC and Alabama,” Thrasher said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m OK with that to a point but I’m also not going to put Florida State at risk in terms of debt and the responsibility to other programs. Him and I had an understanding about that.”
They may have at one point, but Fisher has since made it clear there was a disconnect between them.
He jabbed at his former bosses during his introductory news conference at Texas A&M on Dec. 4, talking about the lack of progress to build a larger football complex. “You can have the greatest coaches in the world, but if your administration doesn’t see things the way you see things and allow you to do things that way, nothing can be achieved,” Fisher said.
A year before he left when he signed a long-term extension at Florida State, Fisher had praised Thrasher for “seeing the big picture.” Thrasher had lauded Fisher for being a perfectionist, though noted that dealing with Fisher could be complicated.
It’s apparent Thrasher believes Fisher crossed the line, and he defended the program.
“Our facilities are pretty good right now,” Thrasher said. “They’re not bad at all and Willie Taggart will tell you he wants to get kids to come here not because of the facilities but because of the education they’re going to get and leadership on the field.”
Thrasher said the results of a feasibility study commissioned by the university about a football facility should be completed soon. It will determine whether the university is best served by building a stand-alone facility or make renovations to the Moore Center, which currently houses football, most of the athletic department along with classrooms.
Whatever the decision, Florida State’s current facilities are good enough for Taggart.
Thrasher has known Taggart for only two weeks, but said the 41-year old coach — who grew up in Palmetto, Florida, as a Seminoles fan — has already made a positive impression on players and the faculty. Thrasher met Taggart for the first time in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Dec. 4 to discuss the job and he was introduced as the school’s 11th football coach two days later.
The same day he was named, Taggart appeared with Thrasher at the State of the University speech and received a standing ovation.
“His attitude toward the kids and approaching their success on and off the field. I hadn’t quite heard that in the way he expressed things,” Thrasher said of Taggert.
He may have found his man, but Thrasher didn’t expect to be involved in a coaching search. The president felt when the school gave Fisher an extension last December through 2024 that it was a lifetime contract — it lasted 11 months.
Thrasher had to deal with plenty of sticky situations as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 1999 and 2000, but said hiring a football coach was a unique challenge.
“I looked in the closet for the playbook on hiring a coach and there wasn’t one,” he said. “Stan had a good plan of working around the potential opportunities and it just worked.”
Taggart received a six-year contract worth $30 million that also includes paying the buyouts from his previous jobs at Oregon and South Florida.
Texas A&M gave Fisher a 10-year, $75 million deal. He had a base salary of $5.5 million this past season at Florida State, which still placed him among the highest-paid coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I may have been reading him wrong but from every vibe I got this was where he wanted to be and wanted his kids to grow up,” Thrasher said. “Honestly I think there were other things involved as far as him leaving.”
Fisher went 83-23 at FSU, including a national championship in 2013, three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and four ACC Atlantic Division crowns.
The Seminoles (6-6) though struggled this season. They were ranked third in the AP Preseason Poll but lost quarterback Deondre Francois to a knee injury in a season-opening loss to Alabama. They won their final three games to get bowl eligible and will face Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27.
But when talks with Texas A&M heated up with Fisher, they rapidly deteriorated with Florida State.
When an audience member at his weekly call-in show on Nov. 29 was hastily removed after asking about Fisher’s loyalty, Thrasher told the coach he needed to make a decision. Two days later Fisher resigned and Odell Haggins was appointed as interim coach.
By that time, athletic director Stan Wilcox had already had a short list of candidates compiled with Taggart at the top of the list.
“After that incident things seemed to mushroom,” Thrasher said. “That’s when I knew we had to press for a decision.”