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South Carolina wants to know how FSU paid Willie Taggart’s buyout. Maybe.

The lesson from the Willie Taggart debacle isn’t to avoid golden parachutes. It’s to learn how to make the exits happen.
Florida State head coach Willie Taggart leaves after the loss to on Nov. 2 in Tallahassee. Florida fired Taggart the next day.
Florida State head coach Willie Taggart leaves after the loss to on Nov. 2 in Tallahassee. Florida fired Taggart the next day. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published Nov. 19, 2019

If you’re wondering how Florida State came up with the $18 million it needed to fire coach Willie Taggart, you’re not alone.

South Carolina is asking the same thing. Maybe.

South Carolina’s president, Robert Caslen, told the Florence (S.C.) Morning News that he hasn’t personally asked the Seminoles how they got the money.

“No, but our athletic director (Ray Tanner) has,” Caslen said, according to the Morning News. “And they’ve got a whole lot more money in their athletic endowment than we do. I know that, for a fact.”

South Carolina later released a statement denying that the Gamecocks spoke to FSU about coaching contracts, for what that’s worth.

Why would South Carolina care at all about an out-of-state, non-conference team firing its coach? Because the Gamecocks are 26-24 overall under Will Muschamp and 4-7 this season. The former Gators’ coach’s job security has been in jeopardy, which is why South Carolina’s administration is responding to questions about his future.

Muschamp’s buyout would be $19.4 million, according to USA Today’s database. That’s even bigger than what FSU will likely owe Taggart.

RELATED: Why are college football coaches’ buyouts so big?

I don’t know the exact terms of Muschamp’s contract, but Taggart’s letter of agreement called for him to receive monthly payments from FSU until the deal expires (Jan. 31, 2024). The agreement also has a vague mitigation offset in case Taggart gets another job before then.

It would be easy to look at Taggart’s garnet and gold parachute as a sign of how outlandish coaching contacts have become. It’d be better for the health of college sports if schools stopped giving their new coaches multi-million-dollar buyouts.

But that seems to be unrealistic to expect in market where the candidates seem to have most of the power in negotiations. On the night of Jim McElwain’s dismissal, Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin said he’d love to see a market correction with these buyouts. Then he hired Dan Mullen, whose buyout is $12 million or whatever is left on his contract (whichever figure is smaller).

The takeaway from this story, then, probably won’t be that schools will stop putting themselves in position to create costly exists. The lesson will be in how administrators make those inevitable costly exits happen.

RELATED: An open letter to FSU’s next coach from Seminoles’ win over Alabama State