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'We didn't really see any upside to waiting,' David Coburn says of decision to fire Willie Taggart

Odell Haggins says his focus is on Boston College game

Florida State head coach Willie Taggart leaves Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium for the last time after the Seminoles lost to Miami 27-10, Nov. 2, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida. Taggart was fired the next day. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State athletic director David Coburn said Monday the decision to fire Willie Taggart in the midst of his second season was a difficult one.

"I had to fire a friend yesterday, and that was really difficult," Coburn told reporters.

Coburn fired Taggart one day after Florida State's 27-10 loss to rival Miami at home. The loss dropped Taggart to 9-12 overall, including a 0-5 mark against the Seminoles' three primary rivals -- Clemson, Florida and Miami.

"We didn't really see any upside to waiting," Coburn said.

Coburn said Taggart's $17 million buyout hasn't been finalized. Despite the athletic department's recent financial woes, Coburn said lagging season ticket sales and slumping booster support also played a hand in the decision.

"When you do the numbers, it just made more sense to go ahead and do this," Coburn said. "We looked at it hard."

Longtime assistant coach Odell Haggins will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Haggins previously served as interim coach for the Seminoles for two games in 2017 after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.

Haggins was 2-0 as interim coach in 2017, leading the Seminoles to their 41st consecutive winning season with victories against Louisiana-Monroe -- a game rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma -- and Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.

He'll once again be tasked with trying to get the Seminoles (4-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) back to a bowl after a one-year absence. Florida State finished with a losing record last season for the first time since 1976 and missed a bowl for the first time since 1981. Both streaks were the nation's longest.

"We are Florida State University," Haggins, who played for and later coached under the legendary Bobby Bowden, said. "We're going to keep moving forward."

Miami and Florida State players are separated by FSU defensive line coach Odell Haggins (top right) as they skirmish after the Seminoles lost 27-10, Nov. 2, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida. Haggins was named interim coach the next day.

Haggins said he's focused on getting the team ready for Boston College. The Seminoles must win two of their next three games, including a trip to No. 10 Florida, to become bowl eligible.

Coburn said the school will hire a search firm in its search for the next coach.

"I'd like to have a coach in place ready to go when the season ends, if not before," Coburn said when asked for a timeline on the decision.

Taggart becomes the first head football coach to be fired since Darrell Mudra in 1975. His tenure is the shortest of any head coach since Perry Moss left Florida State after the 1959 season to coach the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Taggart coached just 21 games, one fewer than Mudra.

"There's a lot of ways to measure what was happening with the team," Coburn said. "I thought that, at the beginning of the season, we were making progress. Clemson was a disappointment, and I just felt, and the president felt, that since then we just have not looked very good, and I thought, frankly, that the Miami game was eerily similar to the Virginia Tech game (to begin the 2018 season)."

Coburn said the next coach will be expected to win a national championship, like Bowden and Fisher before Taggart.


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