WATCH: David Coburn press conference, Nov. 4
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For about 16 minutes on Monday afternoon, Florida State athletics director David Coburn stood in front of a room packed with reporters and spoke in a way that reflected the thoughts and feelings of just about everyone who follows Florida State football.
The Seminoles under coach Willie Taggart weren’t moving in the right direction. And, with each additional defeat, it became harder and harder to believe that they ever would.
So Coburn, along with Florida State President John Thrasher and others in the university’s administration, came to a decision. One that Coburn described as, “very difficult.”
They fired Taggart Sunday afternoon, effective immediately. Taggart finished his Florida State career with a 9-12 record, and will give way to interim head coach Odell Haggins while FSU determines a permanent successor.
“It was a rough weekend,” Coburn said. “I had to fire a friend yesterday.”
Coburn made clear that this wasn’t something that anyone took pleasure in, but that the university felt it had no choice.
It’s no secret that, as the Seminoles’ fortunes fell, attendance inside Doak Campbell Stadium fell with them.
By the time FSU lost at home to Miami last weekend, the pressure on the program became insurmountable.
And once university leadership realized what it had to do, it saw no benefit to delaying the inevitable – even with three games and a potential bowl game still to play.
“We didn’t really see any upside to waiting,” Coburn said. “We wanted to go ahead and get started with a search (for a new coach), see if we could get somebody in here ready to go as quickly as possible.
“Frankly, 6-6 isn’t good enough. And we didn’t see an advantage in waiting until the end.”
It’s hard to argue.
Yes, making a coaching change midway through Year 2 is uncommon. But the college football landscape is virtually unrecognizable from 10, 20 or 30 years ago, and its evolution continues at a rapid pace.
Programs now must deal with the early signing period for recruits – a hurdle for Taggart – as well as the NCAA’s transfer portal, and any fan of college athletics is aware that the NCAA is considering further changes that could have a major impact on every school in the country.
And then there’s the obvious – Florida State will be one of the marquee openings this offseason, but it might not be the only one. Getting a head start on other teams in the market is imperative.
Coburn said that he’d like to have a new coach in place by the end of the season, “if not before.”
“Our feeling was if we could get positioned and be ready to hit the ground running, it would be a significant advantage,” Coburn said.
Between now and then, Florida State will turn to a familiar face to provide a steadying hand.
Haggins, who served as FSU’s interim head coach for two games following the departure of Jimbo Fisher in 2017, will again take the top job.
Haggins was the obvious choice back then, and perhaps even more obvious now – an FSU Athletics Hall-of-Famer who has spent half of his life wearing garnet and gold, whether as a player or coach.
Like Coburn, Haggins began his media address by acknowledging the obvious:
“I’m standing up here at what’s a difficult time at Florida State University,” he said.
But, in very nearly his next breath, Haggins insisted that neither the players nor the remaining coaches will be overcome by these latest difficulties.
“We’re moving forward,” Haggins said. “We’re thinking about Boston College and thinking about how we’re going to prepare for them and what we need to do to go out and play Boston College.”
WATCH: Odell Haggins press conference, Nov. 4
Haggins’ inspired run as interim head coach in 2017 was one of the great feel-good stories of recent FSU football history. Needing a victory over ULM to earn bowl eligibility, Haggins’ Seminoles topped the Warhawks, 42-10, at Doak Campbell Stadium, then routed Southern Mississippi a few weeks later in the Independence Bowl.
He’ll face a more difficult challenge this time around.
The Seminoles on Saturday will play on the road – where they’re 4-9 since 2017 – and against a Boston College team that ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game, and has one of the country’s best backs in junior AJ Dillon.
From there, they’ll head home to play FCS Alabama State before visiting No. 10 Florida in the regular-season finale.
Florida State still has some goals within reach – a .500 record in conference play for the first time in three years, a return to the postseason and an upset win over a rival, among them – but will have to come together in a hurry to make them happen.
Haggins, no surprise, isn’t looking at the big picture, preferring to focus only on Boston College for the time being. And, hey, who better than the defensive line coach to lead the Seminoles into a game where stopping the run will be a top priority?
“I’m going to stay on that road to Boston College,” Haggins said. “That’s where I’m going to stay.”
By the time they concluded, it was clear that both Coburn and Haggins are united in their belief that Florida State football will not stay where it is currently.
The expectations – meaning conference championships, playoff appearances and national championships – are the same as ever.
And whoever next occupies the big office overlooking Bobby Bowden Field will fall in line with that belief, too.
We’re looking for somebody that can win national championships,” Coburn said. “I don’t have an explicit set of criteria other than that, and I’m going to look at every option I can find.
“But we’re going to win. We’re going to get back to the standard of Florida State University football. That’s what’s going to happen.”