FSU interim athletics director David Coburn said Tuesday that win or lose Saturday against rival Florida, Taggart is still the best man leading the Seminoles despite vocal criticism from frustrated fans.
“His turnaround record is very clear. He takes programs and makes them better,” Coburn said ahead of FSU’s (5-6) showdown with No. 11 UF (8-3) Saturday in Tallahassee. “I think he’s an excellent coach, he’s going to do that here. The president [John Thrasher] is very confident in him, the chairman of the board of trustees, Ed Burr, is very confident in him and I’m very confident in him.”
Taggart is no stranger to tough beginnings. His previous three teams — Oregon, USF and Western Kentucky — were a combined 7-29 the year before Taggart took over as head coach. Oregon was the most successful program he inherited at 4-8 the year before his arrival, and his alma mater, Western Kentucky, was the most challenging at 2-10 the season before he took over.
When it was all said and done, Taggart left each program significantly better than when he arrived and Coburn said he expects his latest rebuilding project to yield the same results down the road.
“The season is what it is. It’s not unlike some of the other turnaround situations that coach has been in,” Coburn said. “We feel good that we’re in a position to beat a rival and get a bowl and keep moving in the process of getting this program where we want it to be.”
The Seminoles have shown signs of life to close the season, playing their best football of the year against then-No. 20 Boston College and snapping a three-game losing streak. Great strides were made on both sides of the ball and as a result, the Seminoles brought home five ACC Player of the Week awards.
The accolades are the result of weeks of effort in practice finally carrying over into a game. Various coaches on the team have said the team has remained in high spirits despite a losing record.
One factor that can help a coach survive fan backlash is winning over the locker room, which Taggart has done, according to FSU starting quarterback Deondre Francois.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough couple weeks, but one thing about Coach Tagg, he will always put us first,” Francois said “He never blames us. He always takes the blame and that’s what a head coach should do. It feels good to go out there and fight, put our bodies on the line for him and know that he loves us.”
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell said Taggart has accomplished a huge feat getting a group of players, including seniors coping with change and adversity during their final season, to buy into his system.
“I’ve said it a bunch of times. Coach Tagg is as good as anybody with the kids that I’ve ever been around,” Bell said. “I’ve been around places where you lose two or three games, you’re going to lose those guys. For us to have the season that we’ve had up to this point and for Coach Tagg to keep those guys together moving forward, that’s just a testament to him.”