HOOVER, Ala. — They don’t keep score during press conferences, but Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher more than held his own sharing the spotlight with Alabama’s Nick Saban at the Southeastern Conference’s 2021 Media Days on Wednesday.
Saban kicked off the day, previewing his team but also discussing players being allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) and COVID-19 vaccinations. Saban held court in businesslike fashion, but the dean of SEC coaches mixed in a human side. He highlighted his best memory of 18 previous SEC Media Days when his dog got out their hotel room, rode the elevator and found its master. Saban had fun when asked about strategy, pretending he didn’t know what 12 personnel meant.
“I’m just kidding,” he said. “I know what 12 personnel is.”
His knowledge has made Alabama not only the standard in the SEC but the country with six national championships in 12 seasons. If you want to win an SEC championship, you have to beat Saban and Alabama and that’s something Fisher and the Aggies have embraced.
Fisher raised eyebrows in May at the Houston Touchdown Club when asked by a fan if Aggie fans would have to wait until Saban retired to beat Alabama for the first time since 2012.
“We’re going to beat his [butt] when he’s there, don’t worry,” Fisher said.
Fisher didn’t back off that statement the day after he said it and he didn’t Wednesday.
“That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?” Fisher said. “Ain’t that why we’re here? Isn’t that why everybody is here? What makes this league this league? That’s what we expect to do at Texas A&M.”
The Aggies are in position to beat Alabama. A&M is coming off a 9-1 season, capped by a 41-27 victory over North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. The Aggies return 15 starters from a team ranked fourth in last season’s final Associated Press top 25. A&M has its deepest team since joining the SEC in 2012. The stars seem to be lining up for something special. This is the fourth season at A&M for Fisher, who won a national championship at Florida State in his fourth season. Fisher’s maturation included five seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU under Saban, a fellow West Virginian.
“Nick and I are friends,” Fisher said. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve coached together. We’re from the same world, if that makes any sense. I have the utmost respect for what he’s done and what he’s accomplished. He’s the standard, and they are the standard you have to play to.”
Fisher also talked about a 12-team playoff, NIL, vaccines and retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who has a terminal medical condition. Fisher spoke from the heart about Bowden, who hired and mentored him, helping pave the way for Fisher’s success. A few minutes later, Fisher made the media laugh while talking about NIL.
“Heck, some people have been doing name, image and likeness for a long time,” Fisher said. “They just ain’t been telling nobody. Now we’re all on equal playing field.”
It was ironic that news about Oklahoma and Texas inquiring about joining the SEC hit as Fisher was speaking.
“I bet they would,” Fisher said, earning a few more laughs.
Many chuckled and smirked when A&M decided to leave the Texas and the Big 12 Conference behind, thinking the Aggies had made a huge mistake. A decade later, A&M is a national championship contender, poised to string together double-digit win seasons.
A&M might not beat Alabama on Oct. 9 at Kyle Field, but it still could make the College Football Playoff by going 11-1. It helps that the Aggies play in the nation’s best conference. A&M believes it’s as good as anyone in the league, including Alabama. That attitude starts at the top.
For the record, the fast-talking Fisher answered 13 questions in the main room to 11 by Saban and did it in five less minutes. Then again, Fisher had plenty to talk about.
Robert Cessna’s email address is robert.cessna@theeaglecom.