Let’s get right to the chase: Since Florida State has fired Willie Taggart, the question is obvious: With Florida State’s buyout numbers looking terrible, what can the program realistically do?
This is not a time when a large dollar amount is apparently available – at least not for any rock star-level coach. Any elite coach will expect top dollar from Florida State, and the school doesn’t have that right now.
Let’s ask the question from a different angle: Is there a way to not spend more money than the situation warrants? It isn’t an easy question to answer, given all the competing factors involved, but there is one avenue the Seminoles could consider:
Make Jim Leavitt head coach for 2020.
Tell him he is auditioning for a long-term deal.
This isn’t a perfect idea. Leavitt might not agree to it. The move invites more instability and churn on the coaching staff. I get that.
Such a move wouldn’t represent a long-term commitment to a new leader of the program. All of those weaknesses are evident, and no one needs to pretend they don’t exist.
Yet, if FSU wants to not only get free of Taggart (which it just did Sunday) AND save as much money as is realistically possible (which it has not yet done), this move would come closer to the target than most.
Anyone who follows college football in the state of Florida knows this point well: Jim Leavitt led South Florida to a No. 2 national ranking in 2007. He made mistakes which rightly kept him out of a head coaching position for roughly a decade, but he has paid his dues. And, he’s been a tremendous recruiter in Florida for three decades, too.
The thought process is that Leavitt, who is a paid “consultant” currently while still getting money from Oregon, would be grateful just to have a chance to re-enter the head coaching game, which would enable him to accept a lower level of compensation in a 2020 trial run. If he does well enough, FSU could reward him down the line… but not up front.
There are probably better ideas out there, but making an outside hire of an unproven head coach is not an example of a better idea. Hiring a retread is not a better idea, either.
If a one-year 2020 audition for Jim Leavitt is not the path Florida State chooses, it needs to select a proven high-end coach. We can focus on that part of this story in a separate article.
This much is certain: Florida State administrators and leaders have some very tough choices to make. They don’t have to make this move with Jim Leavitt, but they ought to at least consider it, especially if the people in the room aren’t convinced that a home-run hire exists.
Report- Bob Stoops no longer candidate for FSU job
At FSU continues to look for a replacement for Willie Taggart, you can scratch one prominent name off the list.
— Jim Henry (@JimHenryTALLY) November 15, 2019
Reports previously were that Stoops was one of the leading choices to take over the floundering Seminole program, and that Florida State may have already extended a massive offer to him.
However, Stoops, who coached Oklahoma from 1999-2016 and won a BCS National Championship against Florida State in the 2000 Orange Bowl, wants to instead keep his job as coach and general manager of the Dallas Renegades of the reboot of the XFL this February.
Stoops had also refused to deny being interested/linked to the Seminoles job, at a public Q & A for the XFL in Dallas last week.
There is obviously a financial concern for Florida State of not only the buyout that they still owe Taggart, which is believed to be somewhere around $17 million, but the potential buyout of another established coach, plus that coach’s salary for 2020 and beyond.
We wrote earlier this week that current interim coach Odell Haggins could be an excellent short-term solution for a lot of the needs that Florida state has, including financial resources.
Haggins coached the Noles to a dramatic 38 – 31 win in Boston last week over the B..C Eagles, which has now put FSU in position to make a bowl game. They need only one more victory and play FCS Alabama State at noon Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday
It is still believed that Florida State is very interested in Stoops’ younger brother Mark, who is the current coach at Kentucky, and is the former defensive coordinator for four seasons (2009-12) with Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee.
The Democrat article also mentions that Memphis coach Mike Norvell, Penn State coach James Franklin and Iowa State coach, Matt Campbell, are candidates that FSU will seriously consider.
Argument for keeping Odell Haggins as FSU coach
As FSU enters their second week of trying to solve their coaching vacancy situation, the best immediate solution maybe staring right at them in interim coach, Odell Haggins.
Haggins oversaw Florida State’s dramatic 38-31 win at Boston College Saturday, which coupled with his two victories as interim coach at the end of the 2017 season has already demonstrated, in a small sample, that he has promise as a head coach. FSU will play FCS Alabama State Saturday and will likely win easily and assure themselves of a bowl game, too.
As for the search, there are three important factors in the Seminoles interviewing for the replacement for Willie Taggart.
One, the leadership in Tallahassee needs to bring stability to the program. The departure of Jimbo Fisher to take a more lucrative job in the SEC with Texas A&M and then with the dismal results from Taggart, who had only coached in a Power 5 situation for one year at Oregon, have the Noles in turmoil.
Florida State needs someone who can calm and reassure players, potential recruits, boosters and anyone else, that they’re going to get back to their winning ways. Preferably, someone who’s been there.
Two, FSU has to be concerned in the short-term with recruits “bailing on them” due to the uncertainty the coaching situation. The early signing period is coming in the second week in December. And, Florida State, right now, has one of the top 5 recruiting classes for next year in the country. But that could evaporate over the course of the next 21 days, if they are not reassured.
And finally, what can the Seminoles actually afford? With Taggart’s massive buyout, believed to be $17 million or so and the fact that FSU will have to likely buyout an established head coach for more significant money, and then, pay their salary, money is definitely a concern in the short-term.
So when you analyze Haggins, who’s been an assistant coach or a player at Florida State for 30 years, he is a solid “yes” on all three of those, above.
He would clearly bring stability, as he is Florida State through and through, including being part of Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher’s National Championship staffs/teams.
Two, Haggins has been intimately involved in FSU recruiting for the last two decades. He helped hold the recruiting class together two years ago in December, when Fisher left. And, he has been instrumental in talking to recruits right now during the transition period for the next coach.
And finally, the money concerns could be alleviated, at least on a short-term basis, with hiring Haggins as the coach. He will cost significantly less to promote than the names like Mark Stoops, Mike Norvell, etc. would cost.
FSU could explore even a one or two-year option on a deal with their longtime defensive line assistant, and Haggins would probably be willing to do it for all of the reasons above. This would also be a good short term option in keeping the staff together, like offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and potentially, elevating Jim Leavitt to defensive coordinator, if they/Haggins would like.
Again, Florida State may be able to land a proven head coach coming up and afford their buyout.
But, if they are not able to do that in short order, Odell Haggins appears to be an excellent option to continue to bring short-term stability and success that’s affordable.
And those are three “wins” that FSU needs right now, too.
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