The two biggest stories of the morning are:
- The Patriots lost a football game last night.
- Florida State fired Willie Taggert in mid-season.
I’ll discuss the Patriots’ loss in this week’s Football Friday, but the happenings at Florida State need to parsed now. Something is very wrong at Florida State in the Athletic Department and I am not going to pretend to know what it is. However, consider that John Thrasher, the President of Florida State University – not the Athletic Director nor some spokesthing for the Trustees – said that Taggert was fired because,
- “… in the interest of the university, we had no choice but to make a change.”
Say what? Willie Taggert was at the pilot of the football program and took that program into a nosedive; that seems pretty obvious to most college football observers. But the statement from President Thrasher implies that something there is so dire that the university itself would be in jeopardy if Willie Taggert finished out the 2019 season on the sidelines. Why do I think something “dire” is afoot?
- Florida State will now pay out $17M to Willie Taggert as per the buyout clause in his contract signed in 2017. The university would owe him that same amount in early December 2019 if they fired him ten minutes after the final game of the season; so, why did President Thrasher have “no choice but to make a change” in early November?
Let me be clear about something. I have said since the middle of last season when the Seminoles were playing poorly that I thought Willie Taggert might be over his head in that job. I am not advocating here that his record at Florida State is even close to what was expected when he was offered the job. His tenure there has been worse than merely disappointing. Willie Taggert had not earned himself – in my opinion – another year as the head co0ach at Florida State. But with the team still having a shot at a bowl game, there must be something else going on in Tallahassee to evince a statement from the university president regarding a mid-season firing.
When Willie Taggert took over the job, he succeeded Jimbo Fisher who had been there for 8 seasons and had won a BCS Championship Game. Prior to that, Bobby Bowden had been the coach at Florida State for 34 years; Bowden’s teams won 76% of their games. This was an elite program; it needed a coach because Texas A&M thought sufficiently highly of Jimbo Fisher that they backed up a Brinks truck to his bank and shoveled money into that bank.
Willie Taggert got the job because Florida State took a leap of faith with him – – and lost. Here is Willie Taggert’s coaching record as he arrived in Tallahassee in 2017:
- He took over a Western Kentucky program that was a hot mess and posted a 7-5 record in his second season there. In 3 years at W. Kentucky, his record was 16-20.
- He took over the USF program and had a 2-10 record in his first year there. After 4 seasons, USF was 10-2 and would go to 2 bowl games. In 4 years at USF, his record was 24-25.
- He took over the Oregon program which had produced a record of 199-78 over the previous 21 seasons under 3 coaches. He went 7-5 in one season there – – and got the job at Florida State.
Kudos for turning W. Kentucky and USF around – – but those programs are not Florida State and they do not have Clemson, Miami and Florida on their schedules each and every season. There are loads of reasons why a pilot who has a license to fly single engine aircraft do not get jobs as pilots for trans-Atlantic flights to Europe; they are not ready to do that competently. I believe Willie Taggert was hired for a job he was nowhere near prepared to do to the standard that was expected of him.
And still … why did he have to be fired NOW “in the interest of the university”?
Switching gears … I want to create a new word – fandelirium. It is a state of euphoria for sports fans that leads them to exaggerate the greatness of the local heroes when those local heroes win something really big. I arrived back in the DC area several days after the Washington Nats won the World Series and fandelirium was afoot in epidemic proportion.
Listening to local sports radio, one fan interviewed somewhere proximal to the victory parade told the station host and his listeners that Azdrubel Cabrera had “the best hands of any middle infielder ever”. This phantasmal pronouncement came after a description of a very nice play Cabrera made late in Game 6.
- Memo to Fandelirious Fan #1: Cabrera has a career batting average of .268. The Hall of Fame has several middle infielders whose career average was in that neighborhood. If Cabrera is the best fielder ever, he should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Seriously…?
The second example is even more stunning. Another fan called into a segment devoted to having fans explain the things that happened in the MLB playoffs that had not received sufficient attention in the media. One caller said that Howie Kendrick’s’ clutch hitting throughout the playoffs was “at least as good as anything Big Papi ever did in the playoffs.”
- Memo to Fandelirious Fan #2: Please see someone in the mental health profession sometime soon…
Again, to be clear, Cabrera and Kendricks played significantly positive roles in the Nats’ playoff run to the World Series Championship. I do not mean to denigrate their performance in any way. I simply mean that fandelirium is out and about in the DC area.
Finally, here is an item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Burrito: A delicious way to alienate the guests at the party you will soon be attending.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………