Unfortunately for all involved, the Willie Taggart hire at Florida State has never appeared like it was going to stick. The Taggart era began with a 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech in front of a national audience on Labor Day of 2018 and never truly recovered. Lowlights of 2018 included a 30-7 loss to Syracuse, blowing a 20-point lead in a loss to Miami, blowout losses to Clemson and Florida, and snapping the program’s FBS-record 36-year bowl streak.
Taggart shook up his staff in 2019, bringing in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and offensive line coach Randy Clements, but the overall tune has been the same. The season began with the Seminoles turning an 18-point lead into a 5-point loss to Boise State, and followed with a 1-point, overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe. Florida State sits at 3-4 today after a 22-20 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday. To those who follow college football, FSU’s loss to Wake wasn’t surprising, but, still, it underscores the point that Florida State can lose to Wake Forest and it elicits barely a blip on the national radar.
Assuming a loss to No. 7 Florida on Nov. 30 and a win over Alabama State two weeks prior, the Seminoles will have to go 2-1 against Syracuse, Miami and Boston College to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year.
So, what happens now?
Hopefully for all involved, Florida State could sweep those three toss-up games, pull a stunner against the Gators and show demonstrable progress from Year 1 to Year 2. This is a team that’s held fourth-quarter leads in six of its seven games this season; fixing correctable issues could see 3-4 turn into 7-5 or even 8-4.
However, the people running major college football programs can’t bank on “hopefully,” and sources tell FootballScoop Florida State has engaged its donor class about making a change at the head coaching position rather than give Taggart a third chance to turn Seminole football around.
Taggart’s contract calls for a $17 million buyout.
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If Florida State does move on from Taggart, who do they have in mind to replace him?
Sources say Florida State is shooting for the top: Urban Meyer.
Meyer has never taken on a rebuild of this size in his career. Bowling Green and Utah were coming off losing seasons when Meyer took those respective jobs, but Florida had gone 7-5 when he arrived in 2005 and Ohio State was a year removed from six straight 10-win seasons upon his 2012 arrival. Meyer is a future Hall of Fame coach, a tenacious recruiter with a name that resonates both nationally and in Florida high schools, but he’s also 55 years old with a son playing college baseball and grandkids scattered across the country. His last two jobs were turn-key operations, so will he want to grab his hard hat and undertake one of college football’s heaviest rebuilds at this stage in his life?
Meyer is a recovering football addict, so it will remain an open question as to whether he can stay away from coaching until enough time passes that the question answers itself, but even still, it’s no slam dunk he would take this job at this time, given that all he’d need to do is simply say the word and he’d have his pick of available jobs in college football and the NFL.
So, yes, it’s anything but at slam dunk that Meyer takes the job if offered, and it remains to be seen if Florida State likes its options behind Meyer enough to move on from Taggart in the event this season does not make a U-turn.
But regardless of whether Meyer actually winds up in garnet and gold, it’s an indication as to Florida State’s psychology at this time. This is a program that was among the national elite for practically 30 straight years under Bobby Bowden before falling off, returned to the elite under Jimbo Fisher only to fall off again over the past handful of years. We’re talking about a program with first-class tastes currently sitting in the back of the plane.
Costly as it may be, sources say Florida State is preparing to spend what it takes to return to college football’s first class.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.