Even though Willie Taggart is now in Tallahassee, his troubles from his one season at Oregon aren’t completely left behind.
As reported by James Crepea of The Oregonian on Wednesday, a former Oregon football player named Doug Brenner is suing Taggart, the University of Oregon, former UO strength coach Irele Oderinde, and the NCAA for negligence in connection with Brenner’s January 2017 hospitalization, which followed offseason workouts shortly after Taggart became Oregon’s new head coach at the time.
This lawsuit comes at a perfectly terrible time for Taggart. Of course, there is never a GOOD time to have a lawsuit brought against you, but as anyone can readily appreciate, coaches who win big can compete against negative news developments a lot more easily than coaches who are struggling. Taggart is struggling, so this is precisely the kind of story which adds to the “drip, drip, drip” of problems Florida State’s coach has to deal with.
It doesn’t mean this story dramatically reshapes the political calculus, but it creates and feeds into a cumulative effect which, if not reversed sooner rather than later, might have consequences for Taggart as he tries to find his footing in Tallahassee. It could also lead to more negative recruiting against him, beyond what already exists.
People will have this discussion. It is understandable and normal.
It is also relatively unimportant — very unimportant in a bigger context.
What is the bigger takeaway from this story? It is that the larger industry of college football — more specifically, the regulation of programs and, most precisely, workouts — demands more regulation.
In an interesting twist, while Florida State has a coach who is being sued for something he did while at another program, the Seminoles no longer have a coach who got into trouble for something he did AFTER leaving FSU. In a very real way, Florida State is catching political trouble for things done at other schools.
Taggart had his messy set of problems at Oregon. Jimbo Fisher — as documented several subsections into this lengthy story by Dan Wolken of USA TODAY — allowed workouts to occur in ways his assistant coaches could manipulate. What might have ostensibly seemed like an optional meeting became a meeting in which pressure was used to get players to participate. The line between voluntary participation and coercion was blurred. Oregon under Taggart and Texas A&M under Fisher are examples of why professed claims of player freedom and reasonable standards aren’t as easy to enforce — or verify — as one might first think.
The NCAA has to be much clearer, firmer, and more authoritative in establishing structures and protocols which eliminate the ability of coaches to work around certain limits to demand that players put in extra work, or more work than an athlete feels is warranted at the time. This should be the focus of the Brenner lawsuit against Taggart, not anything else.
Florida State, as mentioned above, is uniquely unlucky in that it is bearing the public-relations hit (at least a portion of it) for what a current employee did or might have done at another institution. If anyone’s outrage is being directed at Florida State, it is greatly misplaced. Again, the current head coach and his predecessor have both gotten into trouble for what actions at OTHER institutions.
Where Florida State, however, gets into (deserved) trouble is that it allowed Taggart to hire Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator. THAT was an unforced error where grownups in the room should have said, “Willie, you can hire plenty of capable offensive coordinators, but not that one — not, at least, until Mr. Briles gives the kind of public accounting for his actions that a state school deserves. We need more transparency from Kendal Briles before you can make that hire.”
That didn’t happen.
Yet, if we are discussing player workouts and offseason conditioning, this is not an issue where Florida State has profoundly crossed the line — Oregon and A&M bear the burden if that is the topic of discussion.
Everyone will talk about how this affects Willie Taggart’s job status. That is a basic reality of how mass audiences react to this kind of a story. Yet, if we are focused on the welfare and safety of athletes, the hope is that this story will lead to needed changes in how offseason workouts are structured. Chiefly, the coaches themselves cannot be the foremost authorities here. Trainers and sports medicine experts with a specific mandate to advocate for the athlete first should be empowered to step in on behalf of the athlete in a “first, do no harm” context which is entirely appropriate for all situations.
If the athlete is perceived as “soft” by the coaches, that is for the coach and athlete to hash out in a discussion. If an athlete thinks — in the middle of a workout — that his body is being pushed too far, he has to have the right to not only cease or opt out of the workout, but to do so without any fear that his status on the roster will be jeopardized or weakened.
What has happened at Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher and at Oregon under Willie Taggart are not Florida State stories, even though many will pound Taggart and FSU for it. These are stories where the fate of a program is a far smaller consideration than the fates of thousands of collegiate football players.
Make sure to ask your university president — in Tallahassee or anywhere else — if athlete safety is truly being addressed.
Taggart’s career status? Yes, plenty will talk about it… but that will resolve itself most centrally on the field.
Some things, believe it or not, are much bigger than football.
FSU and LSU announced two game neutral site series Tuesday
In an effort to continue to beef up their out-of-conference schedules, FSU announced on Tuesday that they will play newly-crowned National Champion, LSU in two neutral site games coming soon in 2022 and 2023.
The Seminoles made the announcement through social media and their website that they will be playing the “Bayou Bengals” first in New Orleans and then, in Orlando:
Noles vs. Tigers set for '22/'23!!!https://t.co/nfLwLGhXE3
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) February 11, 2020
Both teams will be given the benefit of essentially a “home-away-from-home neutral-site game” on Labor Day weekend. LSU considers New Orleans to be their second home and just won the College Football Playoff National Championship game over Clemson there on January 12.
The first game with the Noles will be on Saturday night September 4th, 2022.
FSU will, then play “hosts” in Orlando against the Tigers the following year on Saturday night September 3rd. The Noles recently played a season-opening game with Ole Miss, whom they defeated, at Camping World Stadium in 2016.
New Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell had this to say in the school statement about adding the games coming soon,
“I’m excited about this series,” head coach Mike Norvell said. “Florida State has a rich tradition in Louisiana, the home of many former Seminoles including Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor, and all three of our national championship teams had at least one player from Louisiana. It continues to be an important area for us now. We added two players from Louisiana in our first signing class, and it will be great for them and other future Noles to be able to play back in their home state.
This series matches two of the iconic brands in college football, and I know our fans will have a great time in New Orleans and Orlando. I want to thank our administration for all their hard work on this and for continuing to pursue first-class experiences for our student-athletes.”
These will be the 10th and 11th times that Florida State and LSU will meet. The Noles hold a 7 – 2 advantage, including winning four straight games in the series. It is the first time the two schools will have played since 1991.
Further, Florida State is 9 – 2 in their last 11 games opening a season on a neutral field. The Seminoles were to have played Boise State in Jacksonville last Labor Day weekend, but the threat of Hurricane Dorian moved the game to Tallahasse.
That’s where the Broncos upset the Seminoles and sent coach Willie Taggart into a second year spiral that resulted in his firing in November.
The Noles are also 8 – 2 all-time in games at the Superdome with the most prominent one coming in the BCS Championship Game win over Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
Deion tells Dan Patrick he’d consider coaching Hurricanes
NFL Hall of Famer and former Seminoles All-American defensive back Deion Sanders is making the rounds for broadcast outlets at Super Bowl 54 in Miami,. And it’s not just his NFL Network duties that made some news on Tuesday. Rather, it’s an interview, where he expressed more desire for coaching college football and maybe, even in the city where he currently is working this week.
Sanders appeared on The Dan Patrick television – radio show Tuesday in advance of the 49ers and the Chiefs meeting for pro football’s title at Hard Rock stadium Sunday night.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
And, while most of the interview centered around the NFL and the Super Bowl match-up, Patrick naturally turned to Deion’s desire to apparently be a head coach in college football and maybe, as soon as next year.
This subject came up after Sanders was apparently under consideration to possibly be the new head coach at FSU, when they fired Willie Taggart in early November. The school and AD David Coburn did confirm that they had a serious formal discussion with “Prime Time” about building a staff, etc.
That’s when Patrick turn the questioning to Sanders’ son and what might test his loyalty to FSU and possibly, coaching at a hated-rival like the University of Miami.
“What if ‘The U’ called?” Patrick asked.
“You know what is so funny, cuz I saw that when I was watching you on television (earlier in the day when Patrick said he would ask Sanders about Miami). My son is a phenomenal quarterback. My youngest son. He has a plethora of offers. We’re going to visit ‘The U’ on Saturday,” Sanders said.
“But would you coach the U?,” Patrick quickly asked again.
“You know what. You never know,” Sanders replied leaving the door open, like most do.
“Are you a ‘package deal’ with your son,” asked Patrick?
“I’ve never been a package deal with any-body,” Sanders shot back, which drew laughter from the studio audience at Patrick’s Super Bowl show site.
Now, the Hurricanes have obviously floundered for much of the 2010s, including 2019 with first-year coach Manny Diaz struggling mightily down the stretch of his first season. Miami lost it’s final two games to finish 6 – 6, and then, were shutout humiliatingly by Louisiana Tech 14 – 0 in the Independence Bowl.
Miami has swapped offensive coordinators after Diaz fired Dan Enos after just his first season. The Canes have hired former Auburn and SMU play-caller Rhett Lashlee to replace him. And, they secured Houston dual threat transfer QB D’Eriq King for this season.
Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State (1987, ’88), and won the Jim Thorpe Award during his final season playing for the Seminoles in 1988. He was selected in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons and played in the NFL through the 2005 season.
His elite level of play earned him inductions into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders has been analyst for the NFL Network for the past 10 years and clearly has the desire to try something else.