Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher doesn't care what you think of him.
Whether you believe FSU quarterback Jameis Winston should be under center when the Seminoles take on Louisville Thursday or not, his coach will send the third-year sophomore onto the field without an ounce of compunction. And what you think of two police investigations into running back Karlos Williams, one involving domestic violence, the other a robbery, doesn't matter a bit to Fisher, either.
By any reasonable standard, the FSU coach has proven to be utterly tone deaf to how both he and his program are perceived.
But he's by no means blazing a new trail in that regard. He's merely following one already traveled by some of the most successful coaches college football has ever seen.
Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, and Tom Osborne won seven national titles between them, and all at one point or another, and to varying degrees, were criticized for prioritizing football success over discipline. It can be debated which of those coaches was most lenient, and which steered the program most out of control. What can't be debated is that, reputation-wise, Fisher is increasingly aligning himself in that company.
Because it works.
The No. 2-rated running back recruit in the nation, Jacques Patrick, committed to the Seminoles Monday and indicated that Fisher's unflinching defense of Winston was one reason he was swayed to FSU. That's no judgment on Patrick -- a good kid can see FSU as a place where Fisher will go to bat for his players. But Jimbo should beware: The same thing can make a bad kid see FSU as a playground for mischief, criminal or otherwise. There comes a point where is matters less whether Fisher is willing to administer any more discipline than is absolutely necessary, and more whether anyone believes he is. Fisher's approach is one that many coaches before him have been successful with, but it also creates a program that is more and more difficult to manage over time. New Texas coach Charlie Strong has taken much the opposite path: cleaning house from the beginning, enduring the on-field struggles that can result, but setting up a more easily-managed program for the future.
Fisher has lit his candle at both ends.
Nevertheless, he needs only to look at how history has treated Switzer, Johnson and Osborne to know what stands the test of time, and it isn't a track record for suspending players.
Like it or not, championships survive longer than bad reputations.
And the Seminoles, reputation and all, could be well on their way to back-to-back national titles.