Wolken: Jimbo Fisher May Have Gone Too Far

The Texas A&M coach could be in hot water, this after a former player alleged abuse against Fisher and his staff

JRSportBrief
August 22, 2018 - 8:37 am

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Santino Marchiol, a four-star linebacker, arrived at Texas A&M in January 2017. By June 2018, he knew he wanted out.

Marchiol felt that Jimbo Fisher and his staff were demanding in practice, pushed players too far, and, perhaps most importantly, mishandled a lingering ankle injury that had required surgery during Marchiol’s freshman year.

“I found the kid to be very credible,” USA Today college football writer Dan Wolken said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I talked at length with him. I questioned him, I challenged him. He provided specifics, he showed me a lot of text messages, things he had sent at the time to be various people talking about some of these issues.”

Marchiol’s father, who played in the NFL, was also concerned about the treatment of players – and the language directed toward them.

“Part of that dovetails back to Jimbo Fisher and his staff coming into A&M,” Wolken said. “I think they’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that they thought it was a country club under (Kevin) Sumlin. They thought the attitude was laissez-fare, that the players were soft, and their mission was to go in there and make those guys tougher. But did these guys go too far? I think that’s an issue with a lot of new coaching staffs especially, to go in and play the tough-guy routine.”

Marchiol consulted with the training staff about ankle pain and was told, in essence, to suck it up.

“He claims that the training staff there basically said push through it and you’ll be fine,” Wolken said. “He did 2,400 yard sprints, and his ankle was swelled up and all black and blue. That was the last straw. He just said, ‘Look, I know I should not be practicing. It’s not getting better; it’s worse. What am I doing?’ That was the last straw, and I think that was the part of the player treatment that was the most concerning.”

Marchiol, who also claims that the coaching staff gave players money to entertain recruits, is seeking eligibility this season at Arizona, where Sumlin coaches.

“I think he will play this year at Arizona,” Wolken said. “I think the NCAA will grant him that because they like this kind of information. For A&M, I don’t know what’s going to happen. The NCAA is going to investigate, and they’ll see what they can try to corroborate. If it becomes a full-blown investigation, then that could take a while. I don’t know that anything in here will amount to massive penalties, although I do think the NCAA will be concerned about the workouts. I think that will be the biggest thing – the allegedly illegal workouts. That’s a competitive advantage. That’s something that especially the last couple of years they’ve tried to clamp down on time demands of athletes. If they were just blatantly ignoring those, I think that’s something that will be concerning to the NCAA. 

“It’s way too early in the process to project what’s going to happen,” Wolken continued. “I think what made it more newsworthy to me was not only did the kid put it on paper and give it to the NCAA, but that the NCAA said, ‘We’re going to go ask questions.’”