The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: Of Any FSU Coach, Norvell Has Best FBS Head Coaching Resume’ at Time of Hire

FSU athletics

After a coaching search that had Florida State fans and media members largely in the dark until just a couple days prior, the Seminoles finally have their man.

Mike Norvell was introduced on Sunday as the new head coach at FSU. The former Memphis head coach was one day removed from his first conference title as a head coach as he was introduced.

Norvell will become the 11th full-time coach in program history. What the future holds for the Seminoles under Norvell is anyone’s guess, but his resume’ as an FBS head coach is better than any other FSU head coach in program history at their time of hire.

In four seasons as head coach at Memphis, Norvell compiled a 38-15 record, three division titles and this season’s American Athletic Conference championship. At 12-1 and ranked No. 17, the Tigers are set to play Penn State in a New Year’s Six bowl — the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to be specific.

Former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was the offensive coordinator on LSU’s 2003 national championship team while Darrell Mudra won a Division II national championship at North Dakota State, but no other FSU head coach had led their time to a major bowl as a head coach at the time they were hired. Neither Fisher, Ed Williamson, Perry Moss, Bill Peterson or Larry Jones had any head coaching experience at their time of hire.

Don Veller had just a 4-3 record at Hanover when he was tabbed to lead the Seminoles in 1948; Tom Nugent was 19-18-1 in four seasons at VMI when he became head coach in 1953. Mudra had enjoyed a lot of Division II success at Adams State, North Dakota State and Western Illinois, but had gone just 11-9-1 in two seasons at Arizona.

The legendary Bobby Bowden had success at South Georgia State College and what is now Samford, but had just one bowl win, one top-25 finish and was just a combined 3-9 against Penn State and Pittsburgh in six seasons at West Virginia. Bowden was 42-26 overall at West Virginia and owned just one win over a ranked team. Norvell’s predecessor, Willie Taggart, led Western Kentucky to its first bowl game as an FBS program and South Florida to its first top-25 finish, but had no bowl wins or division titles to speak of and just a 47-50 overall record when he was tabbed to lead the Seminoles late in 2017.

No two situations are exactly the same, so there is certainly some nuance and it’s also worth noting that Norvell has yet to collect a bowl win. One could also point out that Memphis was 19-7 under Justin Fuente in the two seasons prior to Norvell’s arrival, but it is undeniable that Norvell elevated the Tigers to new and higher heights.

While Memphis was trending in the right direction already, keeping the momentum going isn’t necessarily easy — even at Group of 5 programs. South Florida is three years removed from Taggart’s departure and is just 4-14 in its last 18 games. Since Dave Clawson and Dino Babers won MAC titles at Bowling Green, the Falcons are just 12-26 with no bowl appearances. Since P.J. Fleck led Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season and a New Year’s Six bowl in 2016, the Broncos are just 20-18.

It should also be pointed out that this was his best season at Memphis for Norvell where he had a roster comprised almost exclusively of his own players. Over his four years at Memphis, the Tigers notched six wins over AP-ranked teams. It had just one in the previous 20 years.

The Tigers also had just one 10-win season ever prior to Norvell’s arrival. Memphis has won 10 games in two of the last three seasons under Norvell, including a school-record 12 this year.

While Norvell went just 1-2 in AAC title games, note that the previous two losses were to undefeated UCF teams. The Tigers took the Knights to overtime in 2017 before falling 62-55 to a team that would go on to beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl. After falling 31-30 to UCF during the 2018 regular season at home, the Tigers couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead against the Knights in a 56-41 loss in the AAC Championship.

Regardless of what happens between Memphis and Penn State in the Cotton Bowl, the Tigers will almost certainly finish ranked for a second time in three seasons. Bowden and Taggart each led their teams to ranked finishes just once prior to becoming FSU’s head coach. Memphis had finished ranked just once in its history prior to Norvell.

After announcing that he won’t coach the Cotton Bowl in a letter to Memphis, Norvell will now need to try to salvage FSU’s 2020 recruiting class as Taggart did two years ago. Only time will tell whether Norvell can return the Seminoles to national prominence, but FSU is getting a guy who comes in having accomplished more as a head coach at the FBS level than any previous hire.

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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