De­ci­sion on coach will be cru­cial

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS MONDAY - [email protected] or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

FSU FOOT­BALL of sta­bil­ity with leg­endary coach Bobby Bow­den in charge of the pro­gram from 1977 through 2009. His suc­ces­sor, Jimbo Fisher, coached from 2010-17 be­fore leav­ing for Texas A&M.

Dur­ing their tenures, the pro­gram won at least a share of 15 At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships and three na­tional cham­pi­onships.

Yet in the two sea­sons since Fisher’s ex­o­dus, FSU has had two coaches: Wil­lie Tag­gart and Hag­gins. The team is 11-13 dur­ing that stretch, fin­ish­ing no higher than fourth in the ACC At­lantic Divi­sion.

This trend has proven a coach­ing hire can make or break a foot­ball pro­gram, which is why so many ath­let­ics di­rec­tors these days are quick to make a change at the top de­spite the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions.

So far this season, six coaches have been fired, with Mis­souri fir­ing Barry Odom on Satur­day. Odom is the se­cond coach from the SEC to be let go and the fourth coach from a Power 5 school. The list in­cludes Tag­gart’s exit at Florida State.

In the Semi­noles’ case, the price tag for win­ning is a costly one. The Semi­noles re­port­edly per­suaded boost­ers to come up with what could be an $18 mil­lion buy­out to get rid of Tag­gart. That’s im­pres­sive when you con­sider the ath­let­ics depart­ment re­port­edly faced a $3 mil­lion bud­get deficit in 2018.

FSU of­fi­cials have re­port­edly had their eyes on sev­eral big­name coach­ing can­di­dates through­out this process, in­clud­ing former Ok­la­homa coach Bob Stoops, Ken­tucky’s Mark Stoops, Min­nesota’s P.J. Fleck, Iowa State’s Matt Camp­bell and Penn State’s James Franklin.

Land­ing a proven win­ner can be costly as well.

Buy­outs for some of these can­di­dates range from any­where north of $500,000 (Mem­phis coach Mike Norvell) to $1 mil­lion (Penn State’s Franklin) to as high as $6 mil­lion (Iowa State’s Camp­bell).

The six coach­ing changes so far have come with a hefty price tag: $31.6 mil­lion in buy­outs for head coaches’ con­tracts alone. That doesn’t in­clude the money needed to buy out the con­tracts of as­sis­tant coaches or a new coach’s buy­out from his former school plus a new salary.

FSU isn’t alone hunt­ing for a new coach and could be joined by more pro­grams dur­ing what is typ­i­cally known as Black Sun­day in col­lege foot­ball.

Since 2015, there have been 50 coach­ing changes among the Power 5 schools and an­other 46 coach­ing changes among the Group of 5 ranks.

If FSU ad­min­is­tra­tors need an ex­am­ple of the im­pact of a good hire, they needed only to look across the field Satur­day night. The Ga­tors hired Dan Mullen in 2018 and since then, the pro­gram has gone 19-5, in­clud­ing a New Year’s Six Bowl win last season.

Florida even man­aged to wres­tle away con­trol over its se­ries with Florida State, win­ning back-to-back games for the first time since 2008-09.

But not ev­ery ap­par­ent home­run hire is a win­ner.

Both Chip Kelly and Scott Frost were highly sought-af­ter coach­ing com­modi­ties in 2018 be­fore land­ing at UCLA and Ne­braska, re­spec­tively. But both have strug­gled to trans­late those ex­pec­ta­tions into results on the foot­ball field.

FSU play­ers, mean­while, be­lieve the pro­gram isn’t that far off from re­turn­ing to promi­nence.

“We’re get­ting there, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” red­shirt ju­nior de­fen­sive end Ja­narius Robin­son said.

Quar­ter­back James Black­man said the team isn’t con­cerned about the coach­ing in­sta­bil­ity dur­ing the past few sea­sons.

“We don’t think about it at all; we’ve got a bowl game com­ing up,” Black­man said. “We’re go­ing to fin­ish out strong.”

But when asked what Florida State needs in its next head coach, Black­man isn’t so sure.

“That’s above my pay grade. I hon­estly don’t know,” he said. “Coach Odell has done a hell of a job get­ting us pre­pared, hav­ing us work our butts off, but it just comes down to ex­e­cut­ing when it’s time to ex­e­cute.”

JOHN RAOUX/AP

Florida State in­terim coach Odell Hag­gins is in the mix for the Semi­noles’ head coach­ing job.

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