As you may have heard, Florida State fired their head coach Willie Taggart this week. Selfishly, WHY NOW?!?!?!?! What terrible timing for us. There’s nothing like a firing to rally a team. The narratives practically write themselves. This was only Taggart’s second season in charge, but pressure from the outside seemed to be too much. What a quick turn of events for the Seminoles. Now, longtime defensive coach Odell Haggins will take on the interim role after previous serving in this capacity when Jimbo Fisher resigned as head coach at the end of 2017. Haggins won the final game of the season and destroyed Southern Mississippi in their bowl game.
We had a chance to chat with Jon Marchant at Tomahawk Nation for his take on the state of FSU and this weekend’s game (We got this done before Friday’s preview, miraculously). Be on the lookout for a Q&A from us on their site as well in the coming days.
1. What the current mood in Tallahassee amidst the dismissal of Willie Taggart?
For some it’s joy. Others, sadness that it didn’t work out. Still others are anxious. I think a lot of people are some combination of all three. Not that Willie Taggart was the right guy for the job, but moving on from him now, in mid-season, after less than two years with just a short time before early signing period is very risky. Taggart is by all accounts a great person and family man, and was putting down roots in Tallahassee. FSU was his dream job. He really cared about these kids. So it hurts to see it end this way, especially as quickly as it did.
2. Why did this happen now as opposed to the end of the season, especially given the cost and it being only Taggart’s second year at the helm?
Good question. I think the administration - which includes interim athletic director David Coburn and university president John Thrasher - didn’t really want to make this move. Both are expected to leave their jobs in 2020, and I think they expected to leave with Taggart still in place. But with some pressure from boosters they felt they had no choice, and per Coburn they also did not see any upside to waiting. They felt getting a jump-start on the coaching search ahead of the early signing period was the right thing to do. The catalyst was likely the feeling that the on-field improvement has been glacially slow. And while Willie Taggart’s buyout was a prohibitive $17 million, they crunched the numbers. The revenue loss to the school, especially in the form of sagging ticket sales, was beginning to cost more than his buyout. It’s not just attendance - some boosters have reportedly invested lots of money the last few years re-making the area around the stadium into one that attracts a lot of fans to spend money. The announced attendance for the Miami game last weekend - a huge rivalry game that always brings fans - was just 64,000, and losing to a bad Miami team by three scores was sure to depress fan interest further.
3. How bad do you expect the fallout to be, namely with regards to recruiting?
Well, I think a lot of the younger players loved Taggart. Already two four-star recruits have decommitted. More are sure to follow. Which brings me back to how risky this move was. On one hand if they were going to do it, they had to do it now and couldn’t wait. But you’d also hope they would have a plan in place before they decided to let him go. It’s imperative they get a new, ahem, the right coach right away. That’s going to be the best way to keep this class together, and the early signing period has just accelerated everything. If FSU is still hunting for a coach by then more could jump off the wagon.
4. How do you expect the team to respond this weekend and the rest of the season?
Not sure. The players almost universally love Odell Haggins, so I think there’s a good chance they play hard. They played hard for Odell after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M in 2017.
5. Final score prediction?
I think Vegas now has this as a pick-em game, so I have no idea. I’m just gonna play the homer in an uncertain time and say they play inspired football and win 23-20. But honestly, getting the doors blown off by AJ Dillon and co wouldn’t surprise me.
6. Anyone on the short list for the next head coach?
There’s a ton of smoke around Bob Stoops, but a lot of that is just based on random internet rumors. It’s so early in the process that there’s nothing concrete as I write this. I think FSU will probably initiate a search with a search firm and see where it goes. I think Matt Campbell of Iowa State might also get a call, as could P.J. Fleck at Minnesota, or Mark Stoops at Kentucky. I also personally think it wouldn’t hurt if Matt Rhule at Baylor or Mike Norvell at Memphis get some calls.
BC takes on Florida State in the annual Red Bandanna Game (yes, it’s November...) this Saturday at noon (yes, noon, dumb). It’s the last home game of the season, people! Come out and support, and get tickets here!