Billy Liucci was lounging last month in a front office of the worldwide headquarters of TexAgs, one of the country's oldest, most ambitious and successful fan websites. Although the site's executive editor is not a member of Texas A&M's athletic department, Liucci is one of the school's most influential figures in athletics.
Plugged in doesn't even start to explain that influence.
"If it wasn't for the contract, I don't think he's here," Liucci said the week of Thanksgiving. "It's been that bad this year."
He was speaking, of course, about Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies' coach. A few days later, Texas A&M upset No. 6 LSU to finish 5-7, its worst season in 15 years. Whether Liucci's statement pre-LSU should be reevaluated in light of that win is up for debate.
Regardless, Fisher's contract continues to hover over everything else at Texas A&M: the future, the past, this week's early signing day, next season ... everything.
Nothing in these parts can be discussed without that contract context. It is fair to say Fisher has underachieved going 39-21 in five seasons at Texas A&M. There has been not so much as a division title, although a 9-1 COVID-19-infused season in 2020 remains the high point. But for the money, Fisher era at Texas A&M flat out hasn't been worth it. So far.
An at-the-time jaw-dropping fully guaranteed 10-year, $75 million contract in 2018 was replaced by an exceptionally jaw-dropping 10-year, $95 million fully guaranteed contract in 2021. There is $85 million left on the deal as a buyout following Texas A&M's first season without a bowl appearance since 2008. Even if well-heeled Aggies donors wanted to make a move, that number is too big even for them.
Hence, Liucci's candor.