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Is Jimbo Fisher worth his top-5 salary?

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Jimbo Fisher is the fifth-highest-paid coach in college football, according to coaching salary figures released by USA Today Wednesday.

Fisher’s total salary is $5,250,000, which includes a max bonus of $1,475,000. He also reportedly received a $100,000 bonus within the past year. According to USA Today’s 2016 income notes, FSU’s payments include $150,000 “representing 12 months of a contract completion benefit that vests to Fisher on a monthly basis but becomes payable only if Fisher is fired without cause or remains head coach as of the conclusion of all regular and postseason games of the 2018 season.”

Fisher is the highest-paid coach in the ACC and trails only Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9,004,000), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6,939,395), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6,094,800) and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5,550,000). He is followed by Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5,200,130), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (5,000,000), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ($4,729,500), Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze ($4,703,500) and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4,500,000) to round out the top 10.

That’s a pretty fair placement for Fisher. Aside from Harbaugh, all of the other coaches ahead of him have also won national championships. Both Saban and Meyer have won multiple titles – including a combined seven since 2006 – while Stoops, who has also won only once, edges Fisher by $300,000.

There’s an argument to be made for either coach being paid more. Stoops’ national championship came in 2000 compared to Fisher’s win in 2013. But the tenured Sooners coach has enjoyed a consistent, decorated career during his 18 seasons at Oklahoma, which is a path many assume Fisher will stay on as his progresses.

These salaries are a pretty accurate reflection of how each coach is perceived. Let’s say Nick Saban decided to retire after this season. This list gives an accurate example of who would be on a major program like Alabama’s radar, especially the top 5.

I use this example to justify why Harbaugh is the only coach ranked higher than Saban. Programs will invest more in a young coach who has a proven track record, such as seeing immediate turnarounds at Stanford and Michigan, as well as with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL.

Fisher, 51, both has credibility as a national champion and three-time ACC champion and is still young enough to be a long-term answer. The Seminoles have gone 73-16 (42-10 ACC) during his seven seasons as head coach and have never finished lower than second in the Atlantic Division.

That’s why Fisher has already been linked as a top candidate for the LSU coaching job this offseason. At this point, he’s among the top 5 best coaches in college football and one of only two to have won a title not named Saban or Meyer. Surely, his salary will increase whether he accepts the job in Baton Rogue or signs another extension with FSU.

It’s fair to assume that the Seminoles will offer more money to keep him from negotiating with the Tigers and, in turn, LSU will sell the farm to sway him away. So really, he’s in a range of where he should be either way.

There’s no doubt that he’s the best coach in the ACC currently and would be the second-best coach in the SEC behind Saban should he move over to LSU. That’s even with Saturday’s loss 37-34 to Clemson.

If anything, staying close with the No. 3 overall team in college football should provide even more backing to Fisher’s case. While it may not have been his best coaching performance, the Seminoles still provided a tough matchup for a team likely to make the College Football Playoff.

Dabo Swinney may be the conference’s best rising coach, but it’s Fisher who has the national championship to his name. Recent success is great, but so is past consistency.

Fisher’s salary is arguably one of the most accurate of any coach on this list based on his current perception.

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