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Ryan Rezaian/OurTallahassee

Jimbo Fisher, College Town and $27 Million Public Dollars in Stadium Enhancements

Bob Lotane

October 1, 2021

Did FSU Really Need the Money? No.

This past week, the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency, controlled by our five City Commissioners and seven County Commissioners, sold the farm. They spent $27 million dollars on vanity stadium enhancements for Florida State University Athletics.

We looked at the history of FSU Athletics wasteful spending…

 

 In 2017, when FSU football Coach Jimbo Fisher took that last walk from Doak Campbell Stadium to his car with tears streaming down his face, the die was cast for Florida State to eventually come to the city of Tallahassee for a $27 million bailout.

For years Fisher had fought with FSU President John Thrasher, Athletic Director Stan Wilcox, and FSU Boosters Chairman Andy Miller for the type of facilities he needed to keep up with Clemson and SEC-level programs. He had already delivered one National Championship and had brought FSU within one game of competing for another. But he was running out of smoke and mirrors and knew things had to change.

He was tired of fighting for resources he knew were necessary and being told the money just wasn’t there.

He was mortified when FSU asked him to back off of his fundraising efforts to fight Fanconi anemia, a rare debilitating disease that had afflicted one of his sons, because they thought it might be competing with booster donations.

But when he looked across the green and watched Seminole Boosters pump $45 million in endowment funds into the College Town entertainment district, he knew he had had enough.

It wasn’t long before he was on that jet to College Station, Texas, where he has built Texas A&M into a national football power. In the meantime, FSU has — well — we don’t need to go there.

FSU Boosters Go Corporate

The $45 million in endowment funds used to build College Town technically were required to be used in revenue-generating projects. But in the world of large university finance money is fungible and Fisher could have been given what he was asking for because of the FSU Foundation’s $700 million endowment. The irony is all of the projects have been or are being built as this is being written.

Nevertheless, revenue generated from those projects can go to things like stadium improvements/repairs and (heaven forbid) multimillion-dollar coaching buyouts. However, Boosters head honcho Andy Miller rolled the College Town revenues into other revenue-generating projects in what was called his “swan song.”

As far as long-term finance goes that probably was not a bad idea. But when you’re pissing off one of the five best active college coaches in the country and one of the few who have delivered a national championship — who it is known is receiving huge offers from other schools and the pros — it probably was not a great idea in retrospect.

Renderings of the Florida State University Stadium Enhancements

Buyouts, Bonds, and Bull Shit

Ironically had Fisher still been here his accumulated salary would be roughly equal to the buyout given to former coach Willie Taggart, who succeeded Fisher. Barring a dramatic turnaround, FSU is looking at another multimillion-dollar buyout for coach Mike Norvell.

In the meantime, College Town has become a behemoth of liquor and food sales along with residential and commercial leases. Historically, high building costs and eye-popping appreciation in Tallahassee real estate have made its initial $45 million cost seem like a pittance (with all phases complete the cost was $100 million). Never mind the other revenue-generating projects that College Town profits have been rolled into. The fact is, the revenue from College Town and the other projects can be used for things like stadium improvements and coaching buyouts.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2021 when FSU officials and coaches came to the City of Tallahassee, hat-in-hand, for $27 million in stadium improvements. Bear in mind, they were asking to be bailed out by a city with a 27-percent poverty rate and mindblowing income disparity.

Had FSU gone to Wall Street and pledged a portion of College Town’s revenue or appreciated value, it could have closed a $27-million bond deal in the blink of an eye.

But with Monday’s eight-to-four vote to clean out Blueprint’s bank account for years to come to satiate FSU, the possibility of that happening has disappeared just like that Gulfstream G-7 with Coach Fisher, in 2017, disappearing into the North Florida sky.

 

4 Responses

  1. It’s apparent that most of our fellows are unaware of this disaster. This article is easily shared and that will help. I wrote and printed a petition demanding that the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency fins any and all means of reversing their decision and allow citizen input for the use of the money. Anyone can write a letter; anyone can start a petition. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be plain, direct language and have signatures

  2. At the risk of sounding like
    I’m defending this decision… It seems the author is mad at FSU for something our elected officials have done. Why invest all your words talking up Jimbo Fisher and disparaging other coaches while also oddly pointing out what a good idea college town has turned out to be with barely a mention of the officials who made the decision on how to spend your tax dollars? Seems like misplaced ire to me.

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