The pressure on Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher was always going to be enormous heading into the 2020 SEC football season. Obviously, if there is no season played, Fisher won’t have to deal with supreme scrutiny until 2021.
By Matt Zemek
He would get a reprieve in that sense. Yet, if there is a 2020 SEC season, Fisher might have to reach an even higher standard than what most people assumed at the end of the 2019 campaign.
Why is this the case? One could offer several different reasonable, valid, and thoughtful answers, but one recent news story bears watching for the ripple effect it might have.
Chesapeake Energy, a major oil and gas company, filed for bankruptcy protection. This is a result of significant drops in oil and gas prices during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil prices plummeted a few months ago before rebounding to a degree, but the reality of lockdowns, reduced travel, and reduced overall energy output have had a continuous effect on oil and gas prices. Chesapeake Energy might not be the last oil and gas company to retreat and reorganize. This is not a good period for the industry.
See where this is going? Yeah. Oil money. This is what enabled Texas A&M to pony up so much cash to hire Fisher in the first place. None of this puts Fisher on the hot seat for 2020 or even 2021, but with school budgets being a much bigger point of focus — and concern — compared to a pre-pandemic environment, and with rich donors now getting (more) squeezed in the oil markets, you can be sure that if Fisher doesn’t lift the A&M program to a greater height, the grumbling could get very loud in College Station. Fisher isn’t about to be fired, but he would live in the midst of a constant low hiss of dissatisfaction.
The long-term concern for Texas A&M as an athletic program is that if Fisher doesn’t get things fixed in the next two years, and if the program drifts — with a buyout not making financial sense under such undesirable economic conditions — the Aggies will be stuck with a coach who can’t deliver the goods. LSU and Alabama will leave the Aggies in the dust, and then when it comes time to hire a new coach in 2022 or 2023, A&M won’t be able to offer as much money, and will have to settle for a second-rate coach.
This could all be premature. This could all be a fear-driven worst-case scenario.
Yet, do you really think Texas A&M boosters and big shots AREN’T privately thinking about the acute need for the football program to get it right as soon as humanly possible, in light of all the plot complications and financial limitations outlined above? You can bet there is a deep, underlying worry coursing through the program about Fisher, embodied by and centered around the fear that if he fails to turn the ship around soon, Texas A&M will be stuck in a big pool of oil.