The Daily Nole

FSU Football: Ranking the Previous Head Coaches

FSU athletics

The excitement in the air can be felt as new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart gets set to take over a program that is coming off a disappointing season, but finished strong.

Taggart replaces Jimbo Fisher, who left for Texas A&M, to become the 10th full-time head coach in FSU football history. Odell Haggins coached the final two games for the Seminoles following Fisher’s departure.

Because his tenure was so brief and under the interim label, the current defensive line coach will be omitted from our list. Here, we rank the previous full-time head coaches from last to first:

9. Ed Williamson (1947)
Record: 0-5
Ed Williamson never won a game in his short FSU tenure, but he will always have the distinction of being the school’s first head football coach. His team averaged less than four points per game in its first season.

8. Darrell Mudra (1974-75)
Record: 4-18
Darrell Mudra is most known for being the predecessor to the legendary Bobby Bowden. Mudra went just 4-18 over his two seasons in Tallahassee, but it is worth noting that he did improve the team each year. Mudra inherited a team that went 0-11 in 1973 and improved it to 1-10 in 1974 and 3-8 in 1975. His only win in 1974 came against Miami.

7. Perry Moss (1959)
Record: 4-6
Like Williamson, Perry Moss lasted just one season in Tallahassee, going 4-6. This came on the heels of a productive 7-4 season. Moss lost to both Florida and Miami.

6. Larry Jones (1971-73)
Record: 15-19
Early on, it looked like Larry Jones would be able to keep the momentum from the Bill Peterson era going. After an 8-4 season, a top-20 national ranking and a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 1971, Jones’ team went 7-4 in 1972. Unfortunately for Jones, the bottom fell out in 1973 as the team went 0-11. Jones was 2-1 against Miami in his tenure.

5. Tom Nugent (1953-58)
Record: 34-28-1
After taking over a program that went 1-8-1 in the year prior to his arrival, Tom Nugent had just one losing season during his 6-year FSU tenure. Nugent’s best year was an 8-4 campaign in his final season of 1958, which resulted in a Bluegrass Bowl appearance — one of two bowl trips during his tenure. Nugent was also the first FSU head coach to beat Miami.

4. Don Veller (1948-52)
Record: 31-12-1
After FSU went 0-5 in its first football season, Don Veller led the Seminoles to three straight Dixie Conference championships to begin his tenure. In 1949, Veller coached FSU to its first bowl appearance as it beat Wofford 19-6 in the Cigar Bowl for its first bowl victory. The following season, Veller’s team finished 8-0, marking the first perfect season in FSU history. It would be nearly a half century later before it would have another. Veller also coached the school’s first All-American in Hugh Adams. The majority of Veller’s losses came in his final season of 1952 as the team went just 1-8-1.

3. Bill Peterson (1960-70)
Record: 62-42-1
Bobby Bowden is revered for bringing FSU to national prominence, but it was Bill Peterson who brought the Seminoles to national respectability as a Division I program. Known for his aerial arsenal and propensity for the trick play, Peterson led the Seminoles to winning seasons in six of his final seven years in Tallahassee. His 1964 team was the first to beat Florida and first to finish ranked nationally as it capped off a 9-1-1 season with a 36-19 win over Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl. Peterson led FSU to bowls in three straight seasons from 1966-68 and a No. 14 national ranking in 1968. Peterson also coached the school’s first two Consensus All-Americans in wide receivers Fred Biletnikoff in 1964 and Ron Sellers in 1967.

Jimbo Fisher and Florida State celebrate winning the 2014 BCS National Championship.
(Ross Obley/FSU athletics)

2. Jimbo Fisher (2010-17)
Record: 83-23
Florida State’s offensive coordinator from 2007-09, Jimbo Fisher took over a program that went 7-6 in three of the previous four seasons prior to becoming head coach and brought it back to national prominence. In 2010, Fisher led FSU to its first Atlantic division title in five years and first 10-win season in seven. In 2012, Fisher coached the Seminoles to their first ACC crown in seven years and their first major bowl victory in 13. The following season, Fisher’s team was one of the more dominant in college football history, finishing a perfect 14-0 and scoring more points than any team in FBS history en route to the school’s third national championship. Fisher’s team finished in the top 25 in each of his first seven seasons and in the top 10 during four of those years. Under Fisher, the Seminoles won three straight ACC titles from 2012-14 and played in five straight major bowls from 2012-16. Fisher’s team won a school-record 29 straight games from 2012-14. From 2013-15, FSU set a 3-year record by having 29 players selected in the NFL Draft. Fisher coached the school’s third-ever Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston, who in 2015 went on to become the first Florida State player ever selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Against rivals Miami and Florida, FSU went 14-2 during Fisher’s tenure. He was 5-2 in bowls.

1. Bobby Bowden (1976-2009)
Record: 304-97-4
In 1976, Bobby Bowden took over a program that had won four games in its previous three seasons. That year, Bowden coached the Seminoles to a 5-6 record and never had a losing season again. Over Bowden’s 34 years, FSU finished in the top 25 on 26 occasions, including in the top 5 every season from 1987-2000. While coaching the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner in Charlie Ward in 1993, Bowden led FSU to its first national championship. In 1999, Bowden capped off his first and only undefeated season with another national title as his team became the first wire-to-wire national champion. Bowden also presided over the school’s second Heisman Trophy winner in Chris Weinke in 2000. In 18 seasons as a member of the ACC during the Bowden era, the Seminoles won the conference 12 times, including nine straight upon entering from 1992-2000. Bowden’s teams made bowl games in each of his final 28 seasons, which included 11 straight bowl wins from 1985-95 and a 13-0-1 bowl record from 1982-95. In total, Bowden won 21 bowl games during his time at FSU and coached 31 Consensus All-Americans.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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