To the surprise of no one, the Florida State Seminoles fired Willie Taggart as head football coach. After losing to Miami, FSU stumbled to 9-12 under the Florida native and finally pulled the trigger. Florida State’s blowout loss in the College Football Playoff to Oregon during the 2014 season was the last time the Seminoles even sniffed elite status. After Jimbo Fisher’s departure for Texas A&M, things went from bad to worse to downright embarrassing in Tallahassee.
Even before Willie Taggart was canned, college football analyst and ESPN College GameDay co-host Kirk Herbstreit absolutely ripped the program by saying, “I’m done with Florida State… They’re the most undisciplined team you’re going to watch and a terrible team.”
Kirk Herbstreit on FSU
Florida State football is left for dead. Even with running back Cam Akers being named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award as college football’s best player, energy and support for the program is Tom Petty free falling. The university must now ride this season out under interim head coach Odell Haggins — a 26-year veteran of the program — and hope he can get this team into a bowl game.
FSU athletic director David Coburn said Monday after firing Taggart that he “didn’t see any upside in waiting. Frankly, 6-6 isn’t good enough.”
But who can, as Herbreit called it, “steer the Titanic,” bring FSU back to glory, and finally capture another FSU national championship ring?
Here are some FSU coaching rumors flying around about who could resurrect the Seminole program.
FSU Coaching Candidates
Mike Norvell, Memphis
Moving into a Power Five program is the next step for Norvell after the coaching job he’s done on Beale Street. In each of his first four seasons, the Memphis Tigers won at least eight games and are helping drive national interest of the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Back-to-back seasons Norvell’s team made the conference championship game, and in 2019, they’re staring at another double-digit win season.
At 38 years old, Norvell is an offensive-minded coach who could light the fire that Willie Taggart wasn’t able to in Tallahassee.
UPDATE (December 7, 2019): On the eve of the AAC Championship game between Memphis and Cincinnati, ESPN reported that Norvell “is the leading candidate” to become Florida State’s next head coach.
The report added that “an official announcement could come Sunday.”
Lane Kiffin, FAU
According to a report from CBS‘ Dennis Dodd, Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin was interested in coaching the Florida State Seminoles.
The former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans is biding his time with the FAU Owls. Kiffin guided his Conference USA team to a 6-3 record to start 2019 after going 5-7 the year before. In his very first season, FAU went 11-3, won the conference championship, and defeated Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Perhaps most impressively, Kiffin signed CUSA’s No. 1 recruiting class two out of his three seasons.
UPDATE (December 7, 2019): Speculation that Kiffin would move back into a Power Five program were correct, but FSU wasn’t his choice.
The Ole Miss Rebels are finalizing a deal to make Kiffin FSU’s next head coach, according to multiple reports.
Bob Stoops, Dallas Renegades (XFL)
As enticing as building an XFL team from college football’s scrap heap sounds, there’s a legitimate opening for the Oklahoma Sooners’ legend to get back into a big-time college program. The six-time Big 12 Coach of the Year won the BCS National Championship in 2000 and knows all about contending at the highest level.
According to multiple news outlets in Tallahassee, including WTXL News and NoleGameday.com, Bob Stoops visited Florida State University on Monday, and both sides discussed a deal to potentially make him the program’s next head coach. If that happens, it’s likely offensive coordinator Kendal Briles will remain on the staff, presumably to become Stoops’ successor after he retires.
UPDATE: Those rumors were debunked by Coburn, who told the Tallahassee Democrat that Stoops “hasn’t been offered a contract,” but he did acknowledge Stoops is definitely a candidate.
“He’s on the list, and he’s certainly somebody we would consider,” Coburn said.
It might sound like a pipe dream, but the right pitch might pull Stoops down to Tallahassee.
Yes, Coburn said that FSU wouldn’t hire the national championship winner at Ohio State and Florida if Willie Taggart was “hit by a bus.” It wasn’t a bus, per se, but it was the mounting pressure of FSU boosters and alumni that ran Taggart off the road.
Meyer sits comfortably at his FOX Sports desk analyzing college football. Most people think Meyer is going to be the next head coach of the USC Trojans anyways, so if Coburn doesn’t swallow his pride and call Meyer for an interview, they’re likely going to watch him fly out and take over in Los Angeles, so why not aim for the stars?
Brent Venables or Jeff Scott, Clemson
The most over-qualified defensive coordinator in college football has his name attached to almost every head coaching vacancy. As part of Dabo Swinney’s staff, Brent Venables’ defense regularly ranks near the top of every category in major NCAA football.
He’s highly-paid and is part of the best staff in the country, but could Venables finally pull the trigger at 48 years old and take his shot as a head coach?
Venables’ resume aside, the name to watch here is co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. Part of Clemson’s offensive dynamic duo alongside Tony Elliott, Scott’s father was offensive coordinator at Florida State under Bobby Bowden from 1990-93. It’s likely that Clemson would retain Venables and Elliott, so it’s Scott who feels like the odd-man-out here.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
The Minnesota Golden Gophers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 record. Naturally when a program that’s posted one 10-win season since 1906 does THAT, the head coach is going to field some phone calls.
Fleck is known as a great recruiter despite being tucked in “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” and is on the verge of making a Big Ten Championship game for the first time. This seems like too safe of a hire for FSU, but then again, Fleck’s already proved everyone wrong with the Gophers.
UPDATE: Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that Fleck and Minnesota agreed to a seven-year contract extention on November 5. Needless to say, he won’t be headed for FSU any time soon.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Bob’s little brother might be the less-flashy signing, but what he’s done in Lexington, Kentucky deserves an interview. In his first season back in 2013, Kentucky finished 2-10, plus an 0-8 record in the SEC. Last year, the Wildcats went 10-3, beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, and finished No. 12 in the AP Poll. Stoops is earning a lot of buzz and for good reason.
Plus, he coached Florida State’s defense from 2010-12. He knows the program and knows how to recruit. Sounds like a win-win for the ‘Noles.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Still the hottest unknown name at the college football table, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell feels like someone FSU has to call. The former defensive lineman guided the Toledo Rockets to 34 wins in four years, made Iowa State a legitimate Big 12 Conference threat in only three years, and he won Big 12 Coach of the Year back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.
Campbell reportedly drew interest with the NFL’s New York Jets after the 2018 season, so it doesn’t seem like long before the 39-year-old lands with a major program.
UPDATE: What time is it? Well, maybe it’s Prime Time?
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, the former two-time All-American at FSU, two-time Super Bowl champion, and two-time Hall-of-Fame inductee — he entered both the Pro Football HOF and College Football HOF in 2011 — has emerged as a candidate to be Florida State’s next head coach.
The last few years, Sanders has served as offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian High School in Cedar Hill, Texas. He’s helped the team to back-to-back state championships (2017 and 2018) while coaching his sons — Shilo Sanders now plays for the South Carolina Gamecocks, and Shedeur Sanders is a highly-recruited quarterback for the 2021 class.
On an episode of his weekly NFL GameDay Prime show, Sanders said, “I have not spoken to anyone from Florida State regarding this. But let me assure you, I am 100 percent, 100 percent, desiring to coach at the next level and I will.”
Florida State needs its next hire to hit big. There’s a lot riding on getting it right, as the Seminole faithful are thirsting for a shot to finally unseat the Clemson Tigers, regain control of the ACC, and get into the national title picture once again.
This article was originally published November 4, 2019. It includes several updates as college football’s coaching carousel turns, and FSU continues its search.