IT DEFIES LOGIC that Texas A&M has never been a true national football power. A huge public university in the football-mad Lone Star State with a passionate fan base and nearly unlimited resources (the athletic program raised more than $200 million in 2017) should have dominated at some point in the modern era. The Aggies, however, have not competed for a national title since the 1930s. In recent years Texas A&M has tried almost everything to join college football's top caste. They have relocated conferences, going from the Big 12 to the SEC. They built a state-of-the-art football complex, with a weight room that looks like an Apple store with squat racks. They poured $400 million into a renovation of Kyle Field. And still the program hasn't yet broken through. The Aggies haven't even won a conference title since taking the Big 12 championship 20 years ago.
After jettisoning coach Kevin Sumlin last November, they took a different approach: throwing boatloads of cash at a head coach who's proved he can win a national championship. Athletic director Scott Woodward decided he needed what he called a "rare air" coach—someone who already knew how it felt to hoist a national championship trophy. But Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney weren't going anywhere. That left one active coach (other than Urban Meyer) who's hoisted a trophy over the last 10 seasons: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher (above). They made an offer: 10 years, $75 million. Fully guaranteed. Even in an era of staggering coaching salaries, the deal was awe inspiring for both its duration and its annual pay. Fisher, who won a national title in 2013 but had grown tired of fighting for more resources at Florida State, said yes to the Aggies in large part because he believed a school that would offer that much with the blessing of everyone from the president to the system chancellor to the board of regents was a place where he could get what he wanted for his program.
Now Fisher's mission is to teach Texas A&M how to win. He'll be paid handsomely for it, and he'll be expected to deliver the desired result within a few seasons. For the title-starved Aggies, this approach has to work, because if it doesn't ... well, Woodward chooses not to consider that possibility. "I haven't thought about it," he says. "Failure is not an option."
BY THE NUMBERS
Total value of Jimbo Fisher's 10-year contract with Texas A&M, the largest deal for any coach in college sports history.
Amount Alabama coach Nick Saban—the highest-paid coach based on annual salary—made in 2017.
Value of LSU defensive coordinator David Aranda's four-year extension, richest ever for an assistant coach.