After less than two full seasons, Florida State has moved on from head coach Willie Taggart. The Sunshine State native couldn't turn things around at the school he called his "dream job," going 9-12 overall and 6-9 in the ACC. Taggart's final game as head coach was a 27-10 home loss to in-state rival Miami on Nov. 2 that dropped the Seminoles to 5-5 (3-4 ACC).
Associate head coach Odell Haggins will serve as the interim for the remainder of this season, something he also did in 2017 when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M. Haggins led the Seminoles to a 38-31 victory over Boston College this past Saturday as FSU improved to .500 both overall and in the conference. The 'Noles have two shots (vs. Alabama State, at Florida) to become bowl eligible.
But for the most part, the focus will shift on who the next head coach will be. Even though the Seminoles have slipped some in the past few years, this is still a program that won the national title this decade (2013) and remains one of the top jobs in the country. Athletic director David Coburn, who was appointed to the position permanently in May after serving as the interim for nine months (August 2018), should not lack for interested candidates.
The question is which man is the right choice to be Florida State's next head coach? Is it someone with a proven track record at a Power 5 school? One of the up-and-comers from the Group of 5 ranks? Should FSU look for someone with ties to the school or state?
Athlon Sports asked a group of editors and college football contributors if they were in Coburn's position who would be their top choice. As you will see, the answers run the gamut, perhaps symbolizing the scale of the task ahead of Coburn as he looks to identify the right man for the job.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
All signs seem to point to Bob Stoops as the No. 1 candidate in Florida State's search. Admittedly, I'm still skeptical that Stoops will return to the collegiate game. But if he does return and takes over in Tallahassee, that's easily a home-run hire for a program looking to return to national prominence. But if Stoops sticks with the XFL and retirement from college, and the Seminoles can't land a big name like James Franklin or Matt Campbell, Mike Norvell would be a solid option. The 38-year-old is primed for an opportunity to run a Power 5 program after going 34-15 over the last four seasons at Memphis. Additionally, Norvell has a good eye for spotting and developing talent and consistently builds high-powered offenses.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
The coach at the top of my wish list at Florida State happens to be a current head coach in the ACC — Scott Satterfield from Louisville. Satterfield built an impressive resume at his alma mater Appalachian State — 51–24 in six seasons, including a 38–10 record in five seasons in the Sun Belt (after transitioning from the FCS ranks) — before moving on to Louisville following the 2018 season. He's nine games into his tenure with the Cards, and it's very clear he is going to have Louisville back among the top programs in the league in the near future (if he stays). The Cards are "only" 5–4 overall and 3–3 in the league but are undeniably one of the most improved teams in the nation. Satterfield is known for his work on the offensive side of the ball, but the improvements have been dramatic on defense as well. Louisville's scoring has spiked by 12.3 points per game, and it's allowing 10.0 points per game fewer. And from a per-play standpoint, the Cards are plus-0.5 in 2018 (6.7 on offense, 6.2 allowed) after finishing last season at minus-1.6 (5.3 on offense, 6.9 allowed). That is a staggering difference.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
If I'm Florida State, I'm going after Baylor's Matt Rhule but his buyout (reportedly one of the largest in the country) is probably too prohibitive, especially considering all the money the school still has to pay Willie Taggart. I would then still stay in the Big 12 and turn my attention to Iowa State's Matt Campbell. He has done a tremendous job with the Cyclones and I am anxious to see what he can do somewhere else. Campbell's Midwest ties also could pay off on the recruiting trail as he and his staff make up ground within the Sunshine State. Yes, FSU would have to pay (reportedly $6 million) to get Campbell out of his contract with Iowa State, but that's nothing compared to the amount Taggart is still due.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Florida State didn't give Willie Taggart long to prove that he could recruit and win in the state of Florida, so maybe their next hire will be someone who has already done that. Although it may have seemed crazy after he was ignominiously fired from USC in 2013, Lane Kiffin has come a long way since then.
After proving his mettle under Nick Saban at Alabama, Kiffin has coached well six hours south of Tallahassee at Florida Atlantic. He’s been able to land three straight top-75 recruiting classes at the small Conference USA school and owns a 23-13 overall record. The Owls had gone 3-9 in each of the three seasons before his arrival, and Kiffin immediately turned around the moribund program for its first 11-win campaign.
By pairing a creative, high-powered offense with his father’s acumen on defense, Kiffin has the potential to turn around a Power 5 program. It’s hard to believe, but Kiffin is only 44 years old. He was the youngest head coach in NFL history in 2007, and he’s bound to get another marquee college job soon.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
The FSU job isn't quite what it once was but it's still a top-tier destination for the right fit. Though he'll be a hot commodity on the coaching carousel this offseason, Memphis' Mike Norvell makes a lot of sense in Tallahassee in particular. He's shown he can lead a program well and his energy and offensive acumen would help energize the fan base, which needs a product they can believe in. Even in the tough recruiting landscape of Florida, he could also make a big impact right away and help get the 'Noles back in the thick of things in the ACC.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
Despite their struggles during the last three seasons, the Florida State coaching position is arguably one of the top 10 in college football. So expect the Seminoles to have a countless number of coaches interested in coming to Tallahassee.
James Franklin would be my top candidate if I'm the Florida State athletic director. During his five seasons at Penn State, Franklin has a record of 53-22. Before becoming the Nittany Lions head coach, Franklin was also successful at Vanderbilt where he finished with a 24-15 mark.
Many would ask why would Franklin leave Penn State for Florida State and the answer is simple. The only competition he would have in the ACC is Clemson, who is in the same division as Florida State. That would be a welcome change from the Big Ten where Penn State is in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State.
Franklin would make an immediate impact at Florida State in terms of recruiting and his $1 million buyout is peanuts for a school like Florida State. If the Seminoles were smart, they would make Franklin their top choice.
Mike Ferguson (@MikeWFerguson)
The top target for Florida State is currently former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. Stoops and the Seminoles have reportedly had very positive communications to this point. There are a lot of higher-ups in the FSU athletic department optimistic that Stoops will be the next head man in Tallahassee. Should that fall through, there are a lot of decent names out there. Matt Campbell, Matt Rhule, Mike Norvell, and Luke Fickell would all make excellent hires.