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A Conversation with Jimbo Fisher on Winning in College Football Recruiting

The data is pretty clear that sustained top recruiting is highly correlated with on-field success in college football, and Jimbo Fisher has delivered in the last two years the two best A&M recruiting classes by total points since recruiting classes had points. I caught up with Coach Fisher to ask a few questions on how they do it, and whether the unique attributes of A&M play a role.

I'm a 3rd generation Aggie, and played Texas High School football (quite badly, I might add). One year I played JV weakside defensive end at 138 lbs. Coach Fisher would definitely not have recruited me.   Today my sports activities are relegated to being the smallest player in my weekly pick up basketball, and following college football recruiting wars with fascination.

Coach Fisher has said publicly that part of his key success is he uses the same core pitch with every recruit and is very transparent with high school students and families. We've seen numerous examples of commitments where their stated rationale specifically included the Aggie network and support beyond football and college ,not just the coaching staff, playing time, NFL prep and the other main football factors..

So we asked Jimbo, pretend I'm a recruit who hasn't been recruited by A&M or knows the school history.  What is this core pitch you give both football and nonfootball related?

Fisher: "Neal, Texas A&M offers the best of everything. A first-class education from one of the premier institutions in the country. A commitment to being the best in athletics with unprecedented facilities, outstanding coaches and terrific support staff to help a young person grow in all areas, physically, mentally, socially and even spiritually.

The support of the 12th Man, our students stand throughout the game to help support our football program, and we play in the largest stadium in the state of Texas and one of the largest in the country.

Development of the athletic abilities to maximize your potential and after your playing days are done, the Aggie Ring, the Aggie Network will help tremendously in a career after sports.”

So what nonfootball questions do they usually ask?

Fisher: {Really it's] “much of what I spoke about earlier, education and life after football.”

If the student ended up not being able to play football, what percentage do you estimate would choose A&M for their schooling?

Fisher: “We think a large percentage would choose to come to Texas A&M based on academics, athletics and all of the support as well as life after school.”

Aside from football related traditions, which part of the Aggie traditions and culture are usually most important to a recruit saying yes to A&M.


Fisher: [That's] “hard to say, but just being a part of something special. Once an Aggie, always an Aggie, and knowing there are people who are willing to help.”

Do you have any Corps members on the team today?  How does the football program and Corps balance the commitments?

Fisher:“We have had some walk-ons who are members of the Corps of Cadets. The commitment it takes in both football and the Corps on top of the challenge academically here at Texas A&M is challenging.

But if a young person wanted to pursue both we would work together to maximize their opportunities ... we also have an annual dinner with all of our football student-athletes and all of the members of the Corps.”

I have noticed that a large number of football recruits, not just at A&M, invoke their faith in their decision, far more often and far more vocally than I'd expect from the general population or Twitter in general.  Is this true?  If so it is very cool, what do you think that means?

Fisher: [All I can say to that is] “faith is important to me as well as to a lot of people.”

When a recruit posts a decision or a school list and says, "respect my decision" as is common, what are they talking about?  Are they normally dealing with negative comments from schools they didn't list or badgering from other coaches? Or simply an everyone says that/they are proud of the moment thing?  Or something else.

Fisher: “Probably best to ask the recruits themselves because I believe each one is different. Some make their decision and stop other visits and shut down the recruiting process while others may make a commitment but still look at other options.”

Do you take them to muster or a silver taps in the recruiting process?  I always found those the most powerful single demonstration of the Aggie network.

Fisher: {Unfortunately no} “Muster falls during an evaluation period and Tuesday nights are not conducive to have an official visit but the recruits are aware of these traditions at Texas A&M.”

It seems, unfortunately in general, and certainly for A&M recruiting, that very few recruits really factor in Academics as a primary part of their decision.  Do you think this is true?  If so why? If not, can you estimate for what percentage of recruits does it become a core part of the decision?  Does the answer seem to change based on the "ranking" of the recruit?

Fisher: “Well, each individual is different and everyone has their own likes and dislikes in the area of academics . . . but it is a factor in the decision.”

To follow up on that, if you had to estimate the priority recruits tend to put on Football Related, Culture/School Fit, and Academics in their decision, what % would you assign to each?  Is it extremely heavily football weighted as in 80%/10%/10%?  Or more balanced?

Fisher: “The overall recruiting aspect is a totality of things. Each recruit weighs some things more than others.

Probably the most important factor [isn't one of those, it] is hearing from current players who speak the truth about the way things are done at Texas A&M. Then they have a feel if they will fit into the overall makeup of the team and school.”

Thanks Coach Fisher. It is fascinating to see the level of sophistication in the recruiting process these days, both from schools and players. But Coach, whatever you are doing seems to be working.


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