Following a subpar 10-3 campaign (relative to expectations) last season, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher refused to make any changes to his coaching staff. Even after a 63-20 loss to Louisville, falling again to Clemson, and North Carolina snapping a 22-game FSU home winning streak, no coaching changes were made.
After all, why should he? The school rewarded him with a contract that, with two triggered options, will run through the 2024-25 season with nearly a $40 million buyout. With seemingly no pressure from the administration, Fisher is free to adjust his coaching staff as he sees fit.
Since the mass exodus of coaches following the 2012 season, Fisher’s staff has largely remained intact. Apart from the departure of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt following the 2013 national championship season, staff members Rick Trickett, Lawrence Dawsey, and Randy Sanders have been mainstays of the program.
On one hand, tenure is a positive factor in recruiting. You can sell a kid and his parents on the fact that he will have the same position coach throughout his time at your school.
On the other hand, this consistency along the staff could also become problematic for several reasons. For one, Fisher has not fired a coach in what is the midst of his eighth season at Florida State, even when it has become apparent that the position may be in need of a change.
Another factor is that the ages of Florida State’s coaches are becoming a concern, raising questions about its ability to connect with players. Offensive line coach Trickett is 69 years old, defensive ends coach Brad Lawing is 60, and linebackers coach Bill Miller is 61.
The average age of FSU’s coaching staff is fairly old, a drastic difference from other programs of a similar caliber that seem to be heading in the direction of hiring younger personnel.
Let’s take a look at how Florida State compares to Miami, Georgia, Clemson, Florida, and Alabama in terms of average coaching age.
Obviously, the Seminoles have an older coaching staff. The youngest coach on Florida State is 42-year old Jay Graham. Programs like Miami and Georgia have coaches who are still in their twenties on staff.
So why does this matter?
In this day and age of college football, dominated by the internet and social media, a younger voice is sometimes a good change of pace. After all, the kids who play college football are in their late teens and early twenties. A coach in his thirties can relate to a college player, perhaps because he himself was a player in a similar situation not too long ago.
Social media is another factor with which younger coaching staffs seem to have an edge. Clemson’s social media program is one of the best in the nation, helped by the various position coaches that tweet on a daily basis. At Florida State, you’d be hard pressed to find an active tweeter on the staff outside of tight ends coach Tim Brewster. Fisher has an “official” Twitter page, but has not sent any tweets from it.
In the end, Fisher has ultimate authority on what happens with his staff. With an insane buyout built into his 8-year guaranteed contract, the administration has no leverage over him to make changes. If defensive coordinator Charles Kelly’s defense performs below its talent level for yet another season, Fisher has won’t exactly feel contract-related pressure to make a change.
Still, this trend of FSU’s coaches advancing in age while other staffs get younger is concerning. Perhaps Fisher makes a change if this begins to affect recruiting, or if he feels like their message isn’t getting across to a vastly younger audience.