TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mike Norvell has been hired as Florida State’s 11th full-time head football coach, it was announced Sunday.
“I’m humbled and honored for the opportunity to be the head coach at Florida State University, one of the iconic brands in college football,” Norvell said. “I’m so very excited for the future and the opportunity to return Florida State football to one of the nation’s elite. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running, putting together a great signing class, a tremendous coaching staff and joining arms with our current and former players to help elevate our football program each and every day.”
Norvell has spent the last four seasons as the head coach at Memphis, compiling a record of 38-15, including the 2019 American Athletic Conference championship. His .717 winning percentage is the highest in Memphis history and ranks 10th among active coaches with at least four years of experience at the FBS level. Memphis was the first school to appear in three straight American Athletic Conference Championship Games, and Norvell is one of 12 head coaches in any conference to appear in three straight conference championship games. He is also one of only seven to make three conference championship game appearances in their first four years as a head coach.
“I am so pleased that Coach Norvell will be leading our football program,” Florida State President John Thrasher said. “Everyone we spoke with regarding Coach Norvell agreed that he is one of the top coaches in the country. That fact is clear just based on the opportunities he already has on the table. It became clear to us during the interviews that Coach Norvell is the right person to lead our program back to a championship.”
“We are excited that our football program has attracted one of the finest coaches in the country,” Director of Athletics David Coburn said. “We had a list of criteria that our new head coach needed to meet that went well beyond his record, and Mike Norvell exceeded all of them. At the top of that list was attracting a coach who could lead the program back to competing for championships. We believe we have the coach to do that.”
Norvell has developed an impressive coaching tree in his four seasons as head coach. In 2019, the offensive coordinators at Notre Dame, Auburn and Texas A&M, as well as the defensive coordinator at Georgia, special teams coordinator at Penn State and position coaches at Tennessee, Auburn and Texas Tech, were all hired from Norvell’s Memphis staff.
Norvell is 14-1 in November, a .933 winning percentage, and has won 13 straight games in the final month of the regular season. He is 6-5 against ranked opponents and boasts wins over Power Five opponents Ole Miss, 25th-ranked UCLA and Kansas. His team’s average of 41.2 points per game from 2016-19 ranks fourth in the country behind only Oklahoma, Ohio State and Alabama.
Memphis is one of three FBS teams that have ranked in the top-15 nationally in scoring offense each of the last four years, along with Ohio State and Oklahoma. As an FBS offensive coordinator or head coach, Norvell and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley are the only individuals to have coached a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the last seven seasons. Norvell also has coached a 3,000-yard passer in six of the last seven seasons.
Memphis has shined on special teams under Norvell as the Tigers are one of only two schools with at least one kickoff return touchdown each of the last four years, and their 11 kickoff return touchdowns from 2016-19 are the most in the nation. This year’s team ranked second in the country in special teams efficiency by ESPN, trailing only Penn State which hired Norvell’s special teams coordinator prior to the 2019 season.
The Tigers’ defense has wreaked havoc on opponents, forcing 99 total turnovers and averaging 6.8 tackles for loss per game under Norvell. Memphis has scored 10 total defensive touchdowns over the last four years and is one of only six FBS teams with multiple defensive touchdowns in each of the last four seasons.
In 2019, Norvell led Memphis to a school-record 12 wins and the program’s first outright conference championship since 1969. Norvell, who is the only coach in Memphis history with two 10-win seasons, has produced two of the four 10-win seasons at the school and holds program records with eight wins in his first season, 18 over his first two, 26 in his first three and 38 in his first four seasons. He also holds the school record for the most wins over a three-year span with 30 victories from 2017-19 to bypass his 26 wins from 2016-18.
The Tigers rank eighth in the nation with an average of 40.5 points per game and with an average of 6.90 yards per play. Their team passing efficiency of 167.41 and average of 14.91 yards per completion are both 10th in the country, while their third-down conversion percentage of .463 is 21st. Memphis ranks 20th with a team passing efficiency defense rating of 115.36, is averaging 7.0 tackles for loss per game, the 25th-best average in America, and ranks in the top-six in kickoff returns, blocked punts and blocked kicks. ESPN ranks Memphis 10th in offensive efficiency and 20th in team efficiency.
The 2019 Tigers produced a program-record 14 all-conference selections, including co-Special Teams Player of the Year Antonio Gibson and Rookie of the Year Kenneth Gainwell. Gibson’s average of 28.8 yards per kickoff return ranks sixth in the country, while Gainwell ranks ninth with 150.54 all-purpose yards per game and 12th with an average of 6.42 yards per rush. Brady White, named a finalist for the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Award, ranks in the top-20 in FBS in passing yards per completion, yards per attempt, passing efficiency, passing touchdowns, passing yards per game and points responsibility. He had a streak of 11 straight games with at least two passing touchdowns, tied for the longest streak in AAC history, and was one of five quarterbacks in the nation with at least 11 multiple-touchdown games.
In 2018, Norvell’s team boasted the fourth-best rushing attack in the nation, averaging 279.9 yards per game with a school-record 3,919 total rushing yards and 48 touchdowns on the ground. He produced the first season in Memphis history with two 1,000-yard rushers, led by Doak Walker Award finalist and unanimous All-American Darrell Henderson. The Tigers ranked fourth in the country with an average of 523.1 yards per game and 7.12 yards per play while also ranking seventh with an average of 42.9 points per game.
The 2017 team averaged 45.5 points per game, the second-highest average in the country, and ranked fourth in the NCAA with 523.1 yards per game and 7.35 yards per play. The team passing efficiency rating of 160.15 was sixth in the nation with a passing offense of 335.0 yards per game that was seventh. That year, Memphis forced 31 turnovers, good for third in the country, and ranked third with a turnover margin of plus-1.15 per game. The team’s average of 26.02 yards per kickoff return also ranked fourth. Anthony Miller earned consensus All-America honors after leading the NCAA with 18 touchdowns and ranking third in the country with 96 receptions and 1,462 yards.
In his first year at the helm, Norvell immediately put his stamp on the program. Memphis ranked second in kickoff return defense, allowing only 16.04 yards per return, while boasting the nation’s fifth-best kickoff return average of 26.57 yards per return. The Tigers were the only team to rank in the top-17 of both categories in 2016. Memphis also forced 29 turnovers, the fifth-highest total in the country, and ranked in the top-15 in scoring offense, averaging 38.8 points per game, and passing offense at 304.4 yards per game.
The Tigers have flourished academically under Norvell as well, posting single-year APR scores of 988 in 2017-18 and 976 in 2016-17. Under his guidance, the football team earned its highest grade-point average in program history in the fall of 2017. Through his first three years, 55 players earned their bachelor’s degree, including eight on the 2019 team.
Norvell took over at Memphis after four years as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona State. The Sun Devils averaged 38.1 points per game and scored nearly 2,000 points in his four seasons. His 2014 offense gained 5,750 yards, 3,556 of those through the air, and ranked 13th in the nation with 34 touchdown passes. The 2013 team’s average of 39.7 points per game ranked 10th nationally.
Norvell spent one year as Pitt’s co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach and director of recruiting. From 2007-10 he coached wide receivers at Tulsa, adding passing game coordinator duties in 2009 and director of recruiting responsibilities in 2010. The Golden Hurricane had five 1,000-yard receivers under Norvell’s leadership, led by All-American Damaris Johnson. Johnson broke the NCAA record for career all-purpose yards with 7,796 and is one of four players in NCAA history with three seasons of at least 2,000 all-purpose yards.
Norvell was a four-year letterwinner at Central Arkansas and was inducted into the UCA Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. He broke the school record with 213 career receptions and ranks fifth with 2,611 receiving yards. He helped lead the Bears to 33 wins in his four years, including an 11-3 mark in 2005. The next year, he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater.
Norvell earned two degrees from Central Arkansas, completing his bachelor’s degree in social science in 2005 and his master’s degree in training systems in 2007. Norvell and his wife, Maria, have a daughter, Mila.
The coaching search was assisted by Glenn Sugiyama of global executive search firm DHR International.