ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Before top-ranked Florida State made its way to southern California for the BCS championship game against No. 2 Auburn, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher had some business to take care of on campus.
Fisher signed a new contract Tuesday that runs through the 2018 season. The deal could signal an end to any plans Texas might have had to hire Fisher to replace Mack Brown.
“We’re blessed that we got that out of the way so we can focus on winning a national championship,” Fisher said Tuesday during a news conference at the ESPNZone in Downtown Disneyland as he sat next to the crystal football coaches’ trophy that will go to the winnerMonday night at the Rose Bowl.
Getting out of Tallahassee, Fla., on Tuesday proved a bit tricky for the Seminoles. They were delayed about two hours because they had to wait for a pilot to get clearance to fly.
“It’s been a long day,” All-America defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said. “It’s starting to sink in that we are here.”
Florida State (13-0) blew through its competition this season, winning each of its games by at least 14 points. The Seminoles will play for the BCS championship for the first time since the 2000 season. They last won a national title in 1999, under Bobby Bowden.
“This is the ultimate goal that we want to get to,” said Fisher, who is in his fourth season as Florida State’s head coach.
Auburn had no problem getting to California on Tuesday – though this season was a wild ride.
The Tigers (12-1) were the biggest surprise of the 2013 season. A season after Auburn finished 3-9, did not win a Southeastern Conference game and fired coach Gene Chizik, the Tigers and first-year coach Gus Malzahn won their last nine games – including stunning victories over Georgia and Alabama – to reach the BCS title game for the second time in four seasons.
Now that they’re here, the plan is to keep things as routine as possible.
“We’re going to try to go about our Tuesday practice, our Wednesday practice, our Thursdaypractice,” Malzahn said, “and do exactly what got us here.”
Senior defensive end Dee Ford, who was part of the 2010 national title team at Auburn, said he took a moment today, when the team was heading into Disneyland to appreciate how far the Tigers have come.
“Definitely wanted to enjoy the moment,” he said. “It’s a blessing. I definitely want to soak in the moment and get focused when it’s time to be.”
Even with Fisher’s deal done, the opening at Texas still looms over the national title game.
Texas reportedly has interest in hiring Fisher, and even Malzahn’s name has come up as a possible candidate for the Longhorns.
“I think that there’s a sense of relief that’s it’s done but anytime you’re one of the top coaches in the country and there’s a top program that’s open, you’re going to be on the list because that institution, Texas, can go and get basically anybody they want,” Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said. “But I know Jimbo, he’s a Seminole. He wants to be with Florida State and we want him to be with Florida State.”
Auburn announced Malzahn agreed to a new deal with Auburn the week before the SEC title game.
Fisher and Wilcox said the terms of the deal, which were not released, were agreed upon about three weeks ago.
“But when lawyers get involved, you know how things can take a little while? It wasn’t anything bad it was just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. And then we practiced all the way up until Monday. I was leaving at 6:30 in the morning, getting home 11:30 I wasn’t thinking about anything. We got the contract today. The first time I had a chance to sign it.”
Fisher’s previous deal ran through 2015 and paid $2.75 million annually. The new deal reportedly pays him about $4.1 million per season.
Fisher wouldn’t be the first college coach to sign a new deal and then bolt for another job shortly after, but the timing does make it seem that he’s off the market.
“It’s good that we’re able to get it done before the championship game,” Wilcox said.