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Florida State Seminoles

Walt Bell leaving FSU could be “Sark salvation moment”

Matt Zemek



Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

You are a Florida State fan. You are reading a story with the phrase, “Sark Salvation Moment.”

What the heck does that mean?

Steve Sarkisian is currently the Falcons offensive coordinator (above) in the NFL. Sark used to coach at Alabama, Washington and USC in the college game. What does he have to do with Florida State. More precisely, what does he have to do with the news that Walt Bell, the 34-year-old offensive coordinator for the Seminoles, left to become the head coach at the University of Massachusetts on Monday evening?

I spend part of my year in Seattle. Sarkisian did get a small bread crumb of credit in the Emerald City for lifting Washington from the depths of the Tyrone Willingham era (and the “Rotten Apple Cup” season of 2008, when Washington went 0-12). However, once he did that, he could never lift U-Dub above a modest threshold.

Oregon is Washington’s most bitter rival in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State is the little brother who never offers a real threat. Oregon is the tough, smart, shrewd neighbor who can ruin everything. When Oregon fans are happy, you know Washington is in trouble.

Oregon fans loved to taunt Washington fans with the label, “SEVEN-WIN SARK! SEVEN-WIN SARK!”

The label became a mantra which stuck. Washington fans got to a point where they wanted Sark out. They needed someone to take the program to the next level.

When Lane Kiffin was fired on the tarmac by athletic director Pat Haden in 2013, USC needed a new coach. A man named Ed Orgeron was in the mix, and he wanted to get the permanent job. Haden didn’t give it to him.

Enter Kiffin’s former colleague on Pete Carroll’s offensive staff in the USC glory days of the 2000s.

Sark knew the right people inside USC headquarters at Heritage Hall. He got the job. He left Washington on his own. He wasn’t fired. He coveted the USC job, and USC coveted him — one of several mistakes USC leadership has made this decade.

USC’s stupidity and Sark’s own vision of being The Man in Los Angeles gave Washington the ability to hire Chris Petersen.

The rest, as they say — in Seattle and Los Angeles and anywhere else — is history.

That was Washington football’s Sark Salvation Moment.

Walt Bell bolting for UMass could be the same for the Seminoles.

Willie Taggart was in position to do really well in Year 2 at Oregon in 2018, had he not left for Florida State. One key reason: Jim Leavitt was his defensive coordinator. Taggart had the right assistants in centrally important positions. A glaring question mark — and ultimately, a deficit — on this 2018 FSU staff was Bell. He wasn’t the only problem with the staff, but he stood out because of the up-and-down play of two quarterbacks who had both shown considerable promise in previous seasons under Jimbo Fisher, Deondre Francois and James Blackman.

Taggart has a track record of fixing programs — he completed the fixer-upper plan at Western Kentucky and South Florida. He was in a good position to polish up Oregon in Year 2 had he stayed. He came to Florida State after only one year in Eugene because this was his big chance to coach one of the blueblood programs in college football.

You would think that Taggart is experienced enough to give the offensive keys to an elite offensive coordinator. Instead he turned to Bell, who did not have knockout credentials or soaring accomplishments.

Being young isn’t a problem — look at Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams Coaching chops, however, are revealed or disproved relatively quickly, and very little Bell showed in 2018 pointed to a strong and certain future for Florida State’s offense, especially at quarterback.

Taggart has been given a second chance to get his OC slot right. It is too late for Kliff Kingsbury, but with the coaching carousel in full spin, plenty of attractive choices should be available. No, not anyone who has behaved horribly (think Art Briles or Bobby Petrino) — there can be plenty of good choices removed from that subgroup of talented but tainted individuals.

Taggart knows he has to fix a lot of problems in 2019. This is his Sark Salvation Moment… IF he gets this hire right.

No pressure, Willie. Walt Bell toils for UMass… and hopefully, the bell won’t yet toll for Taggart’s tenure in Tally.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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