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Point-counterpoint: Should FSU promote Odell Haggins from interim coach?

Joey Knight and Matt Baker debate the candidacy of longtime Seminoles assistant Odell Haggins.
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins shouts direction in a game against Alabama State last weekend in Tallahassee. Florida State won 49-12.
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins shouts direction in a game against Alabama State last weekend in Tallahassee. Florida State won 49-12. [ MARK WALLHEISER | AP ]
Published Nov. 20, 2019
Updated Nov. 20, 2019

With former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops apparently out of Florida State’s picture, the Seminoles’ coaching search can turn elsewhere. Maybe inward.

There was a player-led push last week to make longtime assistant and interim coach Odell Haggins the program’s permanent head coach. Haggins, a former star nose guard under Bobby Bowden, also has some internal support thanks in part to his 4-0 record as an interim coach (2-0 this season and 2-0 in 2017) and has interviewed for the job, according to 247Sports.

RELATED: Should FSU hire Odell Haggins full time? His players think so

How seriously should FSU consider him? Let’s discuss:

Joey Knight

In a prior era, before search firms and staggering buyouts, hiring from within was a common practice in college football. Joe Paterno, Tom Osborne, Lloyd Carr, Barry Switzer, LaVell Edwards — all were elevated from assistant-coaching gigs at their respective schools.

But I can hear Baker’s retort now: Yeah Joseph, but that was a generation or two ago.

To which I say, so what? Aside from nullifying the splash-hire factor, what in the name of dues-paying is wrong with rewarding a loyal, qualified assistant to the top job?

In the case of Haggins, it comes down to a fundamental question: Is he smart?

Smart enough to surround himself with cracker-jack coordinators? Shrewd enough to manage a game while not handcuffing said coordinators? Savvy enough to minimize damage when an embarrassing situation arises?

If the answer is yes, then Haggins makes fiscal — and common — sense.

“I just feel like it’s a no-brainer, with the whole coaching situation,” defensive lineman Cory Durden said.

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

Because Haggins — who first arrived at FSU when Willie Taggart was 12 — has no prior head-coaching experience outside his 4-0 interim stint, he wouldn’t command a bloated salary. That’s music to FSU’s bean-counters, who have a well-chronicled financial plight.

And if short-term stability is a consideration, no other candidate will be able to fend off a transfer-portal exodus as effectively as this FSU Athletics Hall of Famer. Hire Haggins now, and even the 2020 recruiting class (currently 18th nationally per 247Sports) likely can be salvaged.

“Coach Odell gets the head position, a lot of guys are going to be happy,” wide receiver Tamorrion Terry said. “He’s going to turn a lot of guys around, turn recruiting around and a lot of things around. Maybe some people are going to stay.”

All that’s left is for FSU to decide if it wants to make a splash hire in the interview room or the locker room.

Now that’s a no-brainer.

Matt Baker

No-brainer is an interesting phrase here. FSU president John Thrasher used it two years ago when he introduced Willie Taggart as his next head coach. How’d that work out?

I say that to say this: All hires are risks, but some are riskier than others. And Haggins would be a big risk.

He has never been a coordinator, let alone a head coach. He is, by all accounts, good at his job and a good, decent man, but there’s probably a reason why he has spent his entire 26-year career as a position coach.

FSU’s concerns run deeper than one recruiting class and next year’s roster, so salvaging a fine (but not elite) class and preventing a transfer or two shouldn’t be the focus. Because this is the Seminoles’ worst stretch since 1974-76, continuity shouldn’t be the goal, either.

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

The top priorities should be stabilizing the program and winning games. Although Haggins has done that in the short term, that doesn’t mean he can do so in the long run. He hasn’t structured a year-round program or hired a staff. His most impressive win is against a Boston College team that should finish 5-7.

Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins hugs school president John Thrasher after a win over Alabama State.
Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins hugs school president John Thrasher after a win over Alabama State. [ MATT BAKER | Matt Baker | Times ]

The financial consideration is valid. The best way to fix that problem is to start winning again. And the best way to start winning again is by hiring a proven coach with a high floor — a Mark Stoops or Matt Campbell.

Maybe Haggins would succeed, but I think it’s more likely that he ends up like Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss (when he had never been a coordinator/head coach) than Ed Orgeron at LSU (when he was promoted from interim coach).

If Haggins doesn’t work out, then the program will continue to drift farther from its recent heights, and FSU would be faced with the possibility of having to push out a legendary figure. Again.

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