The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: Haggins’ Stint as FSU’s Interim Coach Should be Considered an Audition

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

Barring a meltdown of epic proportion, Florida State will become bowl-eligible this coming Saturday with a win over Alabama State.

In the first game since the Willie Taggart firing, the Seminoles evened their record and got to within a win of bowl-eligibility on Saturday with a thrilling 38-31 victory over Boston College. It was the first road win of the season for FSU and first victory as a road underdog in more than three years.

The man now leading FSU, defensive line coach Odell Haggins, improved to 3-0 overall as a head coach in two interim stints. With at least two more games and most likely three in front of him, Haggins’ performance for the remainder of the season should be considered an audition for the permanent job.

Since Taggart’s firing, there has been widespread speculation about who will or should be the next head man in Tallahassee. The Seminoles appear to be real players to land former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, but outside of him, there doesn’t seem to be any real slam dunk hire.

It’s true that men such as Mike Norvell, P.J. Fleck, Matt Campbell, Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell have impressive resumes, but none have ever had a profile job as high as Florida State except for Fickell, who went 6-7 as interim head coach at Ohio State in 2011. None have ever won as much as a Power 5 division and all five names were merely thrown out as speculative.

It’s true that Haggins has no real experience running a program, but that has not always been a requirement for success. Take a look at the three teams sitting atop the rankings: Ohio State, LSU and Clemson. All three of those teams are currently being led by coaches who were promoted after having success in their interim roles.

Neither Ohio State’s Ryan Day nor Clemson’s Dabo Swinney had ever been a head coach while LSU’s Ed Orgeron was a dismal 10-25 at Ole Miss and 16-27 overall before being promoted in Baton Rouge in 2016. All three appear playoff-bound and Swinney is already a 2-time national champion. Let’s not forget that prior to Taggart, FSU’s previous head coach was an internal hire.

Although his name isn’t met with enthusiasm in Tallahassee anymore, few could characterize Jimbo Fisher’s tenure as FSU head coach as anything other than a success. Fisher had spent three years as offensive coordinator before becoming head coach of a Florida State team that had finished 7-6 three times in four years.

In nearly eight seasons as head coach, Fisher led the Seminoles to seven top-25 finishes, six 10-win seasons, four top-10 finishes, three major bowl victories, three ACC titles and a national championship while compiling an 83-23 overall record. Fisher’s 2013 national championship team scored more points than any program in FBS history and had one of the more dominant seasons ever, winning by an average margin of nearly six touchdowns.

The competition hasn’t been great for Haggins’ three games as head coach, but it’s hard to argue that the team hasn’t looked better. In 2017, Haggins took over following Fisher’s departure to Texas A&M. The Seminoles were 5-6 and had to win a rescheduled game with Louisiana-Monroe to extend the nation’s longest bowl streak.

FSU would win that contest, 42-10. Although the competition was lackluster, FSU scored more points than it had against FBS competition all year, tied for the fewest points allowed all season against FBS competition while putting up the most yardage it had all season against FBS competition. That was followed up with a 42-13 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.

Although one could argue that Saturday’s 38-31 win over Boston College wasn’t against the greatest of competition, it should be noted that FSU put up a season-high 524 yards and tied its most points in regulation with 38 against one of the nation’s worst defenses. Entering the game however, the Seminoles had not won on the road and in many of those contests, found ways to lose.

FSU was unable to hold fourth-quarter leads against both Virginia and Wake Forest — two of the ACC’s better teams — on the road. In both of those contests, the Seminoles were unable to get the job done late.

In Chestnut Hill on Saturday, FSU let a 24-14 lead slip as it found itself in a tie game. Given the adversity surrounding the program and what had happened in earlier games, FSU could have gotten tense and folded, but it didn’t.

Whereas the Seminoles found ways to lose those types of games earlier in the season, they found a way to win on Saturday. James Blackman’s 60-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Matthews that ended with an incredible effort with less than two minutes to play put FSU ahead for good before an interception from Stanford Samuels III and a long touchdown run from backup quarterback Jordan Travis essentially put the contest away.

The true test of Haggins’ impact as a head coach probably won’t come against Alabama State this Saturday, but in Gainesville against a top-15 Florida team and in a bowl game, that just may be.

During the pinnacle of Fisher’s tenure in Tallahassee, it wasn’t uncommon for national media outlets to mention that Fisher had worked under a pair of legends in Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden. Haggins has worked and/or played under/with the likes of Fisher, Bowden, Mickey Andrews and Mark Richt among many others.

People often tend to forget that after an All-American playing career at Florida State, Haggins spent three seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. His head coaches? George Seifert and Marv Levy.

For what he lacks in head coaching experience, Haggins more than makes up for with his knowledge of the program. Including his playing career, Haggins has spent nearly 30 years at Florida State. Still just 52 years old, that’s well over half of his life. Oh, and no one bleeds garnet and gold deeper than Haggins.

During his time as a position coach, Haggins has coached numerous All-Americans on the defensive line and has been recognized as ACC Recruiter of the Year on multiple occasions and from multiple publications. Haggins is the only FSU assistant to win national championships working under both Bowden and Fisher. Dating back to his days as a player, Haggins has been a part of 14 teams that finished in the AP top 10 and 13 that won the ACC.

That isn’t the end of the pros that would come with hiring Haggins. Unlike many other head coaches, Haggins would not come with an enormous price tag and given his dedication to the program, there would no worry of Haggins leaving Tallahassee for oil-rich Texas A&M or any other job that many come open. With a lower price tag, FSU could spend more ensuring that Haggins had the resources he needed in terms of staff and facilities.

Extending the job to Haggins permanently isn’t guaranteed to bring FSU back to national prominence, but that would be the case with just about any hire that the Seminoles could make. FSU has said that it plans on making a hire by the end of the month. How it performs on Nov. 30 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium may tell the administration all it needs to know.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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