Coaching decisions: A look at the football coaching turnover at state colleges

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Florida’s Dan Mullen has proven to be one of the best coaching hires following the 2017 season. The Gators would have back-to-back 10-win seasons under Mullen should they defeat FSU on Nov. 30. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

By Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat

TALLAHASSEE – The state of football in Florida has been through multiple changes in recent years.
Florida State will soon have its third head football coach since 2017.
The Seminoles fired former coach Willie Taggart on Nov. 3 after going 9-12 in his first 21 games. The move comes less than two years after former coach Jimbo Fisher left Tallahassee for Texas A&M in 2017.
But FSU is not the only FBS program in the state of Florida that has made multiple staff changes since 2013.
In fact, every major program in the state has had at least one coaching change since the 2013 season began. Four of the seven programs have had three different coaches during that span, and FSU will be the fifth to join that distinction.
There isn’t a coach in the state that’s been at the program for more than three years. Butch Davis (Florida International), Charlie Strong (South Florida), and Lane Kiffin (FAU) are the longest tenured head coaches in the state.
For a state that has the most talented recruiting base in the county and won six national titles from 1993-2006, it’s been tough for the programs in the state to maintain winning cultures. Every team in the state has at least one losing record since 2013.
Here’s a look at the coaching turnover around the state:
Florida State
Jimbo Fisher – 2010-2017
FSU won three straight ACC titles from 2012-2014 with the program’s third national title in 2013. FSU went to five straight New Year’s Six bowl games from 2012-16, but went 5-6 in Fisher’s final season before he left for the Aggies.
Willie Taggart – 2018-2019
Taggart struggled to get the FSU program back off the ground during his tenure and led the Seminoles to their first bowl-less season since 1981. It was the program’s first losing season since 1976. Taggart went 0-5 against rivals Miami, Florida, and Clemson.
??? – Present
FSU is in the middle of a search for its next head coach. FSU initially targeted Bob Stoops, but talks fell through. Some of the top targets that the Seminoles are looking at are Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, Penn State’s James Franklin, Memphis’ Mike Norvell, and FSU interim head coach Odell Haggins.
Florida
Will Muschamp – 2011-2014
The Muschamp era got off to a quick start at UF with the Gators making a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2012. But it went down quickly with UF finishing 4-8 in 2013 and then went 7-5 in 2014 before being let go.
Jim McElwain – 2015-2017
McElwain got the Gators back to 10 wins in his first season and nine wins in his second year, but he was fired after starting out the season 3-4. McElwain’s final weeks as UF’s head coach were tumultuous and included him stating he received death threats during a news conference.
Dan Mullen – 2018-Present
Mullen has quickly gotten the UF program back on track. The Gators went 10-3 in his first season and finished at No. 6. They’re back in the top 10 this season with a 9-2 record heading into the FSU game on Nov. 30.
Miami
Al Golden – 2011-2015
Golden struggled to get the Hurricanes back to their winning ways during his tenure. UM won more than seven games once during his time in Miami before he was fired during the 2015 season. The Hurricanes best season came in 2013 at 9-4.
Mark Richt – 2016-2018
Richt won nine games in his first season with Miami and won 10 games in 2017. He led UM to its first ACC Championship Game since joining the conference in 2004. Richt went 7-6 in his final year at UM and retired following the 2018 season.
Manny Diaz – 2019-Present
Diaz was Richt’s defensive coordinator but left UM to become the head coach at Temple. He was there for two weeks before taking over the Hurricanes. UM is 6-4 this season with Diaz in charge.
UCF
George O’Leary – 2004-2015
O’Leary was the longest tenured coach in the state of Florida until he resigned during the 2015 season after an 0-8 start. He led the Knights to the program’s first 12-win season in 2013 and won the 2014 Fiesta Bowl 52-42 over No. 6 Baylor.
Scott Frost – 2016-2017
Frost took over a program that went 0-12 in 2015 and went 7-6 in his first year at UCF. Then he led the Knights to a 13-0 record and a No. 7 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll. UCF claimed its first national championship after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Frost left UCF to coach at Nebraska, where he played.
Josh Heupel – 2018-Present
Heupel followed up Frost’s undefeated season with an undefeated regular season of his own. The Knights started out 12-0 before losing to LSU 40-32 in the Fiesta Bowl in 2018. UCF is 7-3 this season and has a chance to win 10 games for the third season in a row.
South Florida
Willie Taggart – 2013-2016
Taggart took over a struggling USF program in 2013 and struggled to get things rolling initially. He went 6-18 in his first two seasons before changing his offense to a spread system during the 2015 season. USF went 8-5 that year after losing three of its first four games. Taggart led the Bulls to their first 10-win season (10-2) before leaving to take the head coaching position at Oregon.
Charlie Strong – 2017-Present
Strong took over at USF after being fired at Texas. He led the Bulls to a 10-2 record in his first year with the program, but has struggled since the departure of quarterback Quentin Flowers. USF went 7-6 in 2018 and currently sit at 4-6 this season. Strong is on the hot seat.
Florida Atlantic
Carl Pelini – 2012-2013
Pelini took over a program that was 1-11 the year before he arrived and improved it. He went 3-9 his first season and was on his way to a winning season in 2013 before resigning after drug allegations were revealed.
Charlie Partridge – 2014-2016
Partridge was a man of consistency for the Owls, but it wasn’t the consistency they wanted. He went 3-9 in all three seasons as the head coach at FAU before he was fired following the 2016 season.
Lane Kiffin – 2017-Present
Kiffin found immediate success at FAU winning 11 games and the Conference USA Championship, but finished the 2018 season at 5-7 without a bowl game. The Owls are going bowling again this year with a 7-3 record and still have a chance to make the C-USA Championship Game.
Florida International
Ron Turner – 2013-2016
Turner took over a program that went 3-9 the year before and went 1-11. He improved to 4-8 in 2014 and 5-7 in 2015, but only lasted four games into the 2016 season before he was fired.
Butch Davis – 2017-Present
Davis immediately turned things around for the Panthers going 8-5 in his first season and leading them to their third bowl game in program history. FIU went 9-4 in his second season and currently sit at 5-5 in 2019 with a chance to become the first coach to lead the program to three bowl games during his tenure.
Reach Wayne McGahee III at wmcgahee@tallahassee.com.

Up next
Who: Florida State (6-5) vs. No. 10 Florida (9-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always thought FSU was just one bad hire from returning to the pre-Bowden days. Now they have made it come true. Bobby Bowden stayed too long, before allowing Jimbo to really take over. Now, they have no money and are facing the same coach hiring situation UT faced, having to settle for 3 or 4th best selections. Someone needs to do research and write an article on how Schools/ADs across the country have screwed up this process. That would be an interesting read. Alabama and Texas A&M have it right: hire the absolute best available with BIG $$$…don’t take no for an answer.

    PS: FSU is where Bobby Bowden coached, its NOT a prime destination for any top level coach like Meyer and Stoops, NO WAY. The whole program shakes likes its cheap steel frame stadium seats, Ha Ha Ha…check it out, re-enforced concrete makes for real solid seating!!! Just saying, FSU isn’t a ND or UF or USC

    • I suspect the dysfunction in their athletic department mirrors that of Tennessee also, Dewayne…..UT finally got it right by bringing Fulmer back as the AD, and I think Pruitt will do just fine once he gets hold of it…….but the level of institutional arrogance at FSU, on the other hand, will probably preclude the same there for a few more years. Too bad, I think I’m going to cry myself to sleep tonight. 😂😂