The Arizona Wildcats hired Jedd Fisch as their next football head coach Wednesday, a decision that has drawn strong reaction from the Wildcats fan base. Lots has been said about Fisch but little was known about him prior to his candidacy.
So here are seven things to know about Jedd Fisch.
Fisch has worked for some of the biggest names in football
Brian Billick. Mike Shanahan. Pete Carroll. Jim Harbaugh. Bill Belichick. These are some of the coaches Fisch has worked under in his two decades around college and pro football.
Fisch’s offensive philosophy and his coaching demeanor are the product of the leaders he’s been around. Fisch has certainly been fortunate to learn from some of the game’s top innovators but it remains to be seen how he incorporates those learnings as a head coach.
“Jedd is a gifted offensive mind, and he will do a great job leading and caring for the University of Arizona program,” Carroll said in a statement provided by the school.
Fisch’s roles have remained consistent throughout the years. He’s spent most of his career working as an offensive assistant, ranging from quarterback coach to offensive coordinator. His only defensive role came early in 2002-03 with the Houston Texans. Who Fisch hires as defensive coordinator will be essential, given that Fisch himself isn’t likely going to be as hands on in that department.
Fisch didn’t give too many specifics about the schemes he plans to coach or recruit for at Arizona, other than that you can expect a “precision passing game.”
“I’ve always been a guy that’s thrown the football, but I’ve also been on teams that have led the league in rushing, including this year,” he said. “I’ve been on teams, when we were with the Rams, that we ended up No. 2 in rushing and at the Super Bowl. We’re going to find a way to run the football. Really in order to know if your team is tough, you better know how to run the football, you better be able to stop the run, and you better be able to cover kicks. If you can do those three things we know we’re gonna have tough football team, and we’re going to be a hard out and there’s not going to be one team that’s going to be looking forward to or circling Arizona on their schedule and not think that that’s going to be the toughest game of their season. That’s what our ultimate goal is going to be. It’ll take some time, I understand that, but it won’t be out of reach. We’ll make sure that we get there and we’re gonna have a brand of football that people are gonna want to be a part of here.”
This will be Fisch’s 15th coaching job in 23 years
Beginning with his first coaching gig at a Gainesville, Florida high school in 1997, Fisch has taken 14 coaching jobs at 14 different programs over 23 years. Arizona will be No. 15. The longest Fisch has stayed at one job was as a Baltimore Ravens offensive assistant from 2004-2007. His last four positions lasted less than a full year.
Remarkably, Fisch has lived and coached in 10 different states. He referred to the moves as “multiple but purposeful.” Fisch lacks a true geographic identity but seems to prefer places where it’s warm and sunny most of the year, as he’s taken multiple roles in Florida and southern California. He should fit right in in Tucson.
As for how long he’ll be there, Fisch tried to address the concerns about his transient past and how it could signal a lack of commitment.
“The easy answer is none of those stops were to become a head coach,” he said. “And this is the stop to become a head coach, so there is nowhere else to go. This is where I want to be. That was the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream and the ultimate path to get there for me. A lot of people take a lot of different paths. Our profession as you know is extremely unique in that regard. A lot of times you wind up either leaving a job based on circumstances or opportunity, and I’ve had some incredible opportunities to learn. And I, at that point in time, didn’t want to pass up those opportunities. So when this head coaching job was to arise, I was going to be ready and the most prepared I possibly could be.”
Fisch’s daughter attends UA
After news broke of Fisch’s hiring, critics were quick to argue that the east coaster lacked any deep relationship with the school. Those voices were silenced somewhat by the revelation that Fisch’s oldest daughter is a student at UA.
“She was excited to be around her sisters,” Fisch said. “She still has her own life to live, but we’ll be right around the corner. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t be thrilled to have her mom and her sisters in town and know that we’re here in support of her.”
Fisch promised to play an active role on campus and already reached out to a number of former UA players before his press conference, reassuring that he will be accessible and will value them being part of his program, something Kevin Sumlin wasn’t.
Fisch was also prepared with names and notes of Arizona’s most successful coaches and programs, an indication that he did his homework when interviewing for the job.
“To be able to let my girls go and spend a Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in the springtime and go watch some softball, and to really be a part of everything this university has to offer, it really doesn’t just stop at football,” he said. “Football is important, football is huge and football has ruled my life for 22 years and I would be lying to say if it was anything but that. But I’ll tell you that the part of being on a campus again, the part of being at a place where our daughter chose to go to school, who’s now able to be close by (us), and to be back in Tucson, all of those things led to the opportunity and the timing was right.”
Fisch played tennis growing up but never football
It’s rare for a college football head coach not to have played college football in their younger days. It’s even more rare for a coach to not have played football period. That’s the case with Fisch, who grew up playing tennis in suburban New Jersey.
He credited his youth coaches for pushing him into the coaching profession.
Fisch joins a small but illustrious list of college football head coaches to have never played the game they touch. Among the top coaches who reportedly never put on shoulder pads (at least at the college level) are Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, Duke’s David Cutliffe and former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.
In college, he left sticky notes under Steve Spurrier’s windshield to get a job
As documented by Los Angeles Times UCLA beat reporter Ben Bolch, Fisch had lifelong ambitions of being a football coach. The New Jersey attended the University of Florida with the intention of working under then-Gators head coach Steve Spurrier. To get Spurrier’s attention, Fisch started putting sticking notes under the Head Ball Coach’s Buick windshield wiper. It led to a graduate assistant position at Florida in 1999-2000.
“I always tell the story that I said to him one day, ‘who would have ever thought that after a daily grind of leaving notes on your car and asking you to open up a five minute slot of time, to be able to let some New Jersey tennis player get into your building and starting learning football from you?’” Fisch said Wednesday. “I’m so eternally grateful that on 400th day or so, he finally actually accepted that letter.”
That Fisch wanted to eventually ascend to a head coach position was no secret. In fact, he carries a notebook full of lessons and plays learned from previous bosses, and on the cover is “One day as a head coach.”
Fisch’s coaching colleagues approved of his ambition.
“I think he’s already ready to be a head coach,” Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh told Bolch ahead of Fisch’s first and lone year as UCLA offensive coordinator in 2017. “I think he’s an outstanding coach.”
Arizona beat UCLA 47-30 in 2017 when Fisch was the Bruins’ offensive coordinator
The last time the Wildcats beat the Bruins on the gridiron was the same year Fisch served as UCLA’s offensive coordinator. That would be 2017, when Khalil Tate and Arizona stunned Josh Rosen and UCLA 47-30. Arizona’s defense picked off Rosen three times and sacked the future first round draft pick five times. Rosen threw no touchdowns. The Bruins did run for 190 yards and four touchdowns but that was not enough to stop the Wildcats, who took the lead on the opening kickoff and never looked back.
A month later, UCLA lost to USC 28-23, leading to head coach Jim Mora’s early dismissal. Fisch took over as interim head coach for the Bruins’ final regular season game, a 30-27 win over Cal.
Fisch underwent heart surgery in 2003 performed by a future colleague of UA’s president
Much has been made about Fisch’s relationship with UA president Dr. Robert C. Robbins. Though the origin of their friendship is hard to discern, it possibly stems from a heart surgery Fisch underwent in 2003 as an assistant coach for the Houston Texans. This 2015 story from the Detroit Free Press recounts Fisch’s operation and recovery
During Fisch’s introductory press conference, he said he had no relationship to Robbins prior to 2017, when Fisch interviewed for Arizona’s coaching vacancy following Rich Rodriguez’s departure.
Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said that Fisch was introduced through a “mutual friend” of Robbins. That friend may have been Fisch’s surgeon, Joseph Coselli, who served with Robbins at Texas Heart Institute and the Baylor College of Medicine in the 2010s.
“I happened to have heart surgery in 2003 and I happened to have met Dr. Robbins in 2017,” Fisch said. “But that is about the only relationship of the past is that we met in 2017.”
Though Fisch was turned down for the Arizona job in 2017, his pitch impressed Robbins enough to make him a top candidate the next time around.
Robbins admired Fisch’s “passion, the intelligence, the absolute commitment to integrity, to help our young men become not only great football players but great people in life so they can realize their hopes and dreams.”
Robbins would not share what role he had in the hiring decision but acknowledged that he is involved in every aspect of the university.
“I worked in collaboration and right by Dave in helping him get the support he needed to go out and look for the best fit and coach for this university,” Robbins said. “Be very clear about it: Dave is the leader of our athletics program.”