On the heels of Willie Taggart’s dismissal from the Florida State coaching staff, the program announced Tuesday that Jim Leavitt has been promoted to an on-field defensive assistant, taking on a lot of the defensive responsibility from current interim head coach, Odell Haggins.
The school released an official statement Tuesday night that reads:
“Jim Leavitt will fill the Seminoles’ vacant countable coaching role as an assistant on the defensive side of the ball, interim head coach Odell Haggins announced Tuesday.
The NCAA permits each team to have 11 countable coaches, including the head coach. Those coaches are the only staff members permitted to recruit off-campus and, along with four graduate assistants, to provide on-field instruction.”
Leavitt has been a part of the seminole football staff for a majority of the season in an off-field role as a defensive analyst, and has been a key reason in the gradual improvement of the defensive effort this year.
This new role will allow him to interact with players during the game and at practice as well as play an active role in recruiting.
Leavitt is a proven defensive force who rose to prominence in college coaching, as the original architect and head coach of USF program in the late 1990s. The Bulls made NCAA FBS history becoming the first school ever to move to FBS after fewer than four seasons of existence. He led South Florida to a No. 2 national ranking in 2007.
Leavitt was fired in January of 2010 after controversy at USF over him allegedly striking a player at halftime of a game that 2009 season. The school, led by athletic director Doug Woolard, attempted to claim that the firing was for cause, and that Leavitt had attempted to cover up the incident and change witness and the accuser’s stories. The school then tried to not pay him any of his remaining salary.
Leavitt sued the school, and the two sides eventually reached a settlement a year later, where he was paid a reported $2.75 million dollars from his remaining contract.
From the Bulls, Leavitt coached in the NFL as a linebackers coach with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh. And then, he later coached a season at Colorado, as their defensive coordinator. Next, he came to Oregon to join Taggart, when he took that job two years ago.
FFI contributor, Matt Zemek, wrote earlier this week that there is certainly a case for replacing Taggart with Leavitt as head coach on a short term contract, with the option of extending if all goes well.
It’s not a perfect solution but it might work in the interest of saving money and getting through the next couple of season on a low budget from buying out Taggart’s contract. Leavitt 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.
This move to DC could be the first step for Leavitt to get back into head coaching, and could be a win-win for both him and the Noles.
He’s got three remaining games this season to prove his worth, starting with their road match against Boston College this Saturday. If they win two of the last three games, the Seminoles will be again be bowl eligible, which will hopefully send FSU into the offseason with momentum as they prepare for a rebuilding year in 2020.
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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