David WilsonESPN EditorNovember 12, 2023, 8:10 p.m. ET5 minute reading

Texas A&M AD: Football program ‘stuck at a standstill’ under Fisher

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork discusses his decision to part ways with football coach Jimbo Fisher.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said Sunday night that the decision to fire football coach Jimbo Fisher earlier in the day was his own and that the program was “stuck at a standstill.” .

Bjork said he called Texas A&M interim president Gen. Mark Welsh after the Aggies’ loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 4 and asked to meet.

“The assessment I made is that we are not reaching our full potential,” Björk told a news conference. “We are not in the championship conversation and something was wrong in our direction and in our plan.

“We need to be relevant on the national stage.”

During Fisher’s first three seasons in College Station, the Aggies were 26-10 and finished 4th in 2020 – the second-highest ranking ever for the program, after the 1939 national championship. Last three seasons, Texas A&M is 19-15, including an active nine-game road losing streak that is tied for the program’s longest since the AP poll began in 1936.

Since Fisher’s first full recruiting class in 2019, Texas A&M has signed 70 ESPN 300 players, fourth-most in the FBS behind Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, who have each played in at least one national championship game during this period. The Aggies have been credited with the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022.

“There was something that wasn’t working to give everyone confidence in the program,” Björk said. “You have to adapt, you have to evolve. I’m not going to say if he did it or not, but it didn’t work.”

Fisher’s A&M tenure ends with a 45-25 record over six seasons and no appearances in the SEC Championship Game.

Bjork said he and Welsh met with Fisher inside Kyle Field just before 9 a.m. Sunday and informed the coach they were making an immediate change, as well as firing athletic director Mark Robinson Fisher associate for football.

Björk said the conversation was “quick and cordial.”

Moves to remove Fisher began at a board meeting Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. One executive session included a four-hour discussion, much of which was devoted to Fisher’s future.

“I will just say that there was an intense conversation and I will leave it at that,” Björk said. “But there was no vote. That was my decision to the president and Chancellor (John) Sharp. And that was the end of our decision-making process.”

Defensive line coach Elijah Robinson, who Bjork said has the respect of the players, will serve as interim coach, while coordinators Bobby Petrino and DJ Durkin will continue their roles.

“I expect them to really rally around Coach Robinson and finish the season strong,” Björk said.

Firing Fisher is expected to cost the school more than $76 million to buy out his contract, nearly triple the highest known coaching contract buyout at a public school. According to his contract, Fisher owes $19.2 million within 60 days, then $7.2 per year through 2031. There is no offset or mitigation on these payments, and annual payments begin 120 days after termination.

Bjork said the athletic department and the 12th Man Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is the university’s fundraising arm for athletics, will cover the costs.

“The finances are monumental,” Björk said. “Let me be very clear in this next part: Texas A&M Athletics and the 12th Man Foundation will be the sole sources of funds necessary to cover these transition costs.”

When asked if he expected to take on the entire buyout, Björk said there were “different parameters” in the contract wording.

“Those mechanisms will be worked out as soon as we make contact with his representation,” Bjork said, referring to Fisher’s agent, Jimmy Sexton.

Fisher originally got a 10-year, fully guaranteed $75 million contract in December 2017, when the Aggies hired him from Florida State, where he had won a national championship following the 2013 season. His buyout is so important because he received a four-year extension in August 2021 that increased his annual salary from $7.5 million to $9 million and extended his contract until 2031.

“It’s an institutional decision, but I take responsibility for it,” Björk said. “I knew what was going to happen in the market later this fall (when LSU gave Brian Kelly a 10-year, $95 million contract, among other big contracts), so I knew it was the right decision at that time, because that’s the information we had.”

Björk said her athletic department will be responsible for making annual payments to Fisher.

“We also have a lot of new revenue coming, but we also have to manage our expenses,” Björk said. “There are a lot of things, even in the football budget, where we have flexibility as to where we can still be at a high level, but we can also spend a lot less, but we can be a funded program by the championship. We are I’m going to adjust all that.”

There is a defined list of traits Bjork said he looks for during the Aggies’ search for their next coach. He said that includes someone who has a program identity, great interpersonal skills, a history of player development, a commitment to academics, strong recruiting experience with strong organizational skills.

With the transfer portal opening on Dec. 4, Bjork said it will be a key date in the program’s transition to a new coach.

“It’s not ideal,” Björk said. “But it’s also not unique to the modern era of college football, especially given the world of transfer portals, signing day and all those dynamics that played into it.”

Bjork, who has been in College Station for five years, said he is undeterred in his goal of making the Aggies a national title contender.

“The ingredients for a championship are there,” Björk said. “Aggies want to do things the right way and deserve excellence in everything we do. … We’re moving forward.”

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