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Maintaining Excellence is Fisher’s Next Challenge

After coaching Florida State to the school’s second perfect season and third national championship, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the hottest names in college football. In four years as the head man in Tallahassee, Fisher is 45-10 while delivering the school three 10-win seasons and two ACC titles in addition to the final BCS championship.

Following the 2009 season, Fisher replaced the legendary Bobby Bowden after a third 7-6 finish in four years. Fisher has had success that so few have in replacing a legend and has brought the Seminoles back to the summit of college football. While taking a school to the top is never easy, Fisher’s next challenge will be keeping it there.

A great offensive mind with a history of being around winning environments, Fisher is perhaps best known for his ability to develop quarterbacks. While at LSU, Fisher turned Jamarcus Russell into the first overall pick in the NFL Draft and in his brief time in Tallahassee, Fisher has helped both Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel become first round picks while developing current quarterback Jameis Winston into just the second freshman and third Seminole to win the Heisman Trophy.

As many had anxiously anticipated for the better part of a decade, Florida State football is once again elite. Whether or not it can remain that way is still to be determined.

From 1987-2000, Florida State won a pair of national championships and finished ranked in the top 5 nationally each season. Fans old enough to remember Bowden’s great teams of the 1990s are accustomed to watching their Seminoles compete for national championships on an annual basis.

Despite building the program into the national power it is today, Bowden was forced out after a drop-off that lasted for nine years. Winning back-to-back ACC titles and a national championship has certainly lengthened Fisher’s leash, but keeping Florida State at that level long-term is his only job security.

As was the case with Mack Brown at Texas, Ralph Friedgen at Maryland and Phil Fulmer at Tennessee, coaches in college football today can become victims of the expectations they create. Keep in mind that former Miami coach Larry Coker and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik were each fired within five years of winning a national championship. After finishing 14-0 and winning that coveted national title, Fisher has certainly brought expectations back to Tallahassee.

Thanks to the performance of his teams, Fisher has quickly moved out of the great Bowden’s shadow. By the time all is said is done, there is a very good chance that Fisher brings more ACC titles and perhaps multiple national championships to Florida State.

For Fisher and the Seminoles, the reasons for long-term optimism are many. Florida State is returning a Heisman winner at quarterback and have some of the best football facilities in the country. The fact that Fisher is an excellent recruiter that happens to be coaching in perhaps the state most rich when it comes to high school talent, doesn’t hurt matters either. The FSU fan base and boosters however, realize that too.

In today’s “what have ya done for me lately?” atmosphere, longevity matters and after an unparalleled 14-year span that began in the late 1980s, Florida State fans perhaps understand that better than most. While Fisher has returned the Seminoles to the pinnacle, the name Bowden will always be associated with the program.

The same however, could be said for Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama. But after what Nick Saban, another one of Fisher’s former bosses, has been able to accomplish in his eight years in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide fan base has hardly been forced to cling to decades past. Fisher looks to be on the verge of building a similar legacy at Florida State.

For Florida State, the journey back to the top of college football has been a long one, but it is one that most are expecting to continue. Jimbo Fisher is well aware of that.

Prior to last season, Fisher had a 31-10 overall record. In 2010, he led FSU to its first 10-win season in seven years. In 2012, he delivered Florida State its first ACC championship since 2005. Despite that, Fisher was not fully embraced by the fan base. Now that the Seminoles are national champions, the expectations will only get higher.

In four years time, Fisher has brought Florida State from a decade of perennial mediocrity to the best program in the country once again. The 2013 campaign was truly magical for FSU as the Seminoles set a school-record with 14 wins and a FBS record for points scored in a season.

With an .818 winning percentage, Fisher is most responsible for the recent run of football success at Florida State. Fisher is one of the premier coaches in the country and has once again, made Florida State an elite program. As great as times currently are for FSU, how long they remain that way will ultimately define Fisher’s legacy.

Mike Ferguson

About Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is a Bloguin contributor, the editor of Noled Out and a lifetime Florida State sports enthusiast. Mike vividly remembers watching Warrick Dunn run down the sideline in Gainesville in 1993, the "Choke at Doak" in 1994 and Monte Cummings' driving layup to beat #1 Duke in 2002. Mike has worked as a sports reporter in both print and online. For isportsweb in 2013, Mike gave press coverage of Florida State football's run to the 2013 national championship. Mike has been featured on SI.com, FoxSports.com and Yahoo Sports while interviewing major sports stars such as 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a major in Religion and a minor in Communications. Mike currently resides in Haines City, Florida with his wife Jennifer and daughters Trinity and Greenly. Mike is a full-time reporter at Polk County's newspaper, The Ledger, in Lakeland, Florida. Mike can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.

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