“Violence is as American as cherry pie.”
– H. Rap Brown…1967
Mark your calendars for Nov. 30, 2019. It is destined to be the social event of the year in Baton Rouge.
The date marks the 40th anniversary of Bo Rein’s hiring as football coach at LSU by then Athletic Director Paul Dietzel. It also marks the return to Tiger Stadium of LSU’s new Public Enemy Number One, Jimbo Fisher, head football coach at Texas A&M. As you continue to read, it will be noted that Dietzel’s tentacles not only go back to 1958, they continue to this day at Death Valley.
The LSU fandom will have 12 months to rev up Death Valley for the invasion of Fisher and A&M. It promises to provide the most intense hate fest in TigerTown since Nick Saban returned with Alabama in 2008. That’s when irate students prepped for the occasion by hanging the Crimson Tide leader in effigy in the shadow of a statue of Coach Dietzel at the Tiger Manor apartments located a few first downs from campus.
After last week’s historic 74-72 seven-overtime loss at College Station, LSU didn’t have time to salve its wounds before former Tiger assistant Damayune Craig sprinted across the field where he was serving as A&M receivers coach to vigorously taunt the LSU staff. Craig was LSU receivers coach in 2016 and was fired not long after Ed Orgeron was promoted from interim to full-time head coach.
A fistic encounter ensued when Jimbo Fisher’s nephew, Cole Fisher, then allegedly slugged LSU analyst Steve Kragthorpe in his pacemaker. Cole Fisher is an undergraduate football student manager for Texas A&M. He wanted to show off for Uncle Jimbo by punching out a man with Parkinson’s disease.
LSU’s leading career rusher and current Tiger director of player development Kevin Faulk was photographed hurling a retaliatory blow at Fisher’s enthusiastic relative. “Faulk was performing his civic duty,” said former LSU line stalwart Roman Starns, who like more than a few of the Tiger faithful, is calling for the dismissal of Cole Fisher from his nepotistic position and for his removal from the A&M student body. Don’t hold your breath on his one, Roman.
Coach Fisher is known as a superb recruiter, but he might be wise to choose family members more judiciously. Let’s see if Cole Fisher has the cojones to come to Tiger Stadium next year. Several peace loving media types called for civility rather than aggression by those appalled by young Fisher’s actions. It was Baton Rouge native H. Rap Brown, the civil rights firebrand who grew up a few blocks from the Ole War Skule, who profoundly stated “violence is as American as cherry pie.”
Familial considerations aside, next fall will present an intense homecoming for Jimbo, who spent seven of the best years of his life as LSU’s primary offensive strategist from 2000-2006. When Fisher’s mentor, Nick Saban, returned to Baton Rouge a decade ago wearing red, it took 13 security guards to safeguard the conquering hero turned reviled rival as Saban got off the bus on Powerhouse Drive.
Jimbo was primed to bolt Florida State for LSU at the end of the 2015 season when Les Miles was dangling, but university brass got anxious about the $7.5 million per season price tag for the genius at Tallahassee. Fisher also had more than 40 of his players accused of sexual misconduct and was in the throes of a messy divorce. Sordid nuggets about the Fishers are likely to be thrown in his face come November of 2019.
Fisher is appreciative of the fact that there are no boundaries for discussion when LSU fans grow hostile. Fisher is now a target for venom from an angry mass, ticked off really badly by Saban coaching a superior rival and not warming to the prospect of a Saban protégé’ building another force to be reckoned with each season in the rugged SEC West.
In a twist of immense irony, Fisher’s career was fostered by the aforementioned Dietzel, who logged his last years as an athletic administrator at Samford University, where he hired Terry Bowden as football coach. Bowden brought with him to Birmingham his quarterback from Salem International University. His star passer was a lad named Jimbo Fisher, who emerged at Samford as the 1987 NCAA Division II National Player of the Year.
Fisher then worked for Bowden as an assistant for eleven seasons. He answered Saban’s call at LSU before succeeding another Bowden, Bobby, as head man at Florida State.
It is curious that Dietzel tried valiantly to hire Bobby Bowden at LSU in 1979, and his fate as athletic director was sealed when he did not. Then in his final act as an A.D., Dietzel hired Terry Bowden and in the process, nurtured the coaching career of Jimbo Fisher.
The late LSU Athletic Director Joe Dean recalled his first conversation with Saban at agent Jimmy Sexton’s house in Memphis. When Chancellor Mark Emmert, who accompanied Dean to the meeting, asked Saban who he had in mind to direct the LSU offense, Saban mentioned Jimbo Fisher.
“Do you know him?” Emmert asked Saban. “No, I don’t. But I hear he can coach his ass off,” Saban answered.
The rest is history as they say. Fisher has won 91 games in nine seasons as a head coach and collected a national championship at FSU. Fisher, who earned his nickname because of his affinity for meat snacks, has stated that he plans to launch an organic jerky company when he retires from coaching. LSU fans would like that process to expedited, but at 53, John James “Jimbo” Fisher is likely to be around for some time to torment fans at his former stomping ground.