Florida State fires football coach Willie Taggart

Sports

Florida State head coach Willie Taggart, right, disagrees with the referee in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State has fired Willie Taggart, the move coming a day after the Seminoles lost to rival Miami and with the team in danger of missing a bowl for the second consecutive season.

Taggart was 9-12 in parts of two seasons at Florida State, which won the national title in 2013 and has been in a freefall for the last three seasons. The Seminoles have not been ranked this season, have played sloppily and undisciplined under Taggart, and attendance figures have plummeted.

“We had no choice but to make a change,” Florida State President John Thrasher said Sunday in a news release.

The school said longtime Florida State assistant Odell Haggins has been asked to take over as interim coach for the remaining three games. Haggins was 2-0 as the interim in 2017, after Jimbo Fisher left Florida State for Texas A&M late in the 2017 season.

“We still have a lot of faith,” Florida State linebacker Emmett Rice said Saturday. “We have a lot to play for. It’s not over just because we lost to Miami.”

For Taggart, it is over.

Florida State (4-5) plays at Boston College on Saturday, and likely needs to win that game to have any chance of becoming bowl-eligible. The Seminoles end their regular season against Florida, a game where they will be decided underdogs, and play Alabama State in between.

“I spoke to Coach Taggart this afternoon to let him know of our decision,” Florida State athletic director David Coburn said Sunday. “I met with the team and coaches immediately after that conversation to let them know of the change. It was very important to us that the student-athletes know right away.”

Only 63,995 fans were at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday for the Miami-Florida State game, the smallest attendance for any Hurricanes-Seminoles matchup in Tallahassee since 1991. Florida State’s attendance has been down all season, with fans clearly showing their unhappiness with the on-field product.

“I think very highly of Coach Taggart and wish him well,” Thrasher said.

Taggart’s future has been the subject of speculation for weeks, and he was asked Saturday if the loss to Miami represented a major step back.

“I wouldn’t say a significant step back,” Taggart said. “Yes, it’s a step back whenever you lose. I wouldn’t say it’s a significant step back. Again, the way you go forward, you go out and win ball games. We get a ball game next week up at BC and we got to go win. That’s how we continue to move forward, go out and find a way to win.”

If they win, it’ll be without Taggart going forward.

“We will support our student-athletes in every way and do all we can to return to the winning tradition that is Seminole football,” Thrasher said.

Taggart is 56-62 as a head coach, but went only 16-20 at Western Kentucky, 24-25 at South Florida, 7-5 in his lone season at Oregon and then lost 12 of his 21 games at Florida State.

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AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami Gardens, Florida contributed.

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