While Florida State’s administration spent five weeks identifying, vetting and interviewing coaches to replace Willie Taggart, social media and message boards fixated on one name: Bob Stoops.
The former Oklahoma head coach and ex-Gators assistant was a done deal at FSU. Until he wasn’t. Unless that was just a giant smokescreen because of his job as an XFL coach. Or maybe the dots led to his brother, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops.
After the ridiculous rumors finally died last month with the hire of Mike Norvell, Seminoles athletic director David Coburn could finally admit that he kept his sense of humor through the senseless speculation.
“You have to, or you’d lose your mind,” Coburn said. “The emails … it’s amazing.”
The Tampa Bay Times has obtained those emails through open-records laws. They are, in fact, amazing.
Like this one from Gino Lostracco, a 52-year-old Canadian who insisted FSU President John Thrasher hire either Stoops or former Florida/Ohio State coach Urban Meyer:
“Wake up please and if you cant bring in Stoops or Myers you should be fired as President. ... You cannot afford to not hire Stoops. If you cant get this deal done call me and let me negotiate for FSU. I will get Stoops or Myers myself I GUARANTEE that for the FSU fans and the University.”
Or this one from fan Christopher Wood:
“I would like to reach out and say that if you guys are planning on hiring anyone besides of the following names of (Bob Stoops, James Franklin, Chris Petersen) you might as well shut down this football program!”
Or his follow-up four days later, after news broke that FSU was hiring Norvell away from Memphis. That email included 16 expletives and three pictures of defecating rhinoceroses.
Those messages were among the 36 pages the Times received late last week after requesting emails that mentioned Stoops or another lightning-rod candidate, FSU legend Deion Sanders. The only two involving Sanders were sent two minutes apart from different emails but with the same (misspelled) message: “Deon Sanders can not coach.”
A few other names popped up in the correspondence, including ex-Bucs coach Greg Schiano, former Georgia/Miami coach Mark Richt and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, whose Ole Miss tenure ended after a scandal involving a Tampa escort service. Two emailers suggested Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, whose father, Brad, was a longtime FSU assistant under Bobby Bowden.
“There are no guarantees in LIFE (other than taxes and death), let alone college football,” Delray Beach copywriter Keith Merritt wrote on Dec. 6. “But I truly believe that Jeff Scott would be incredibly successful, and I feel we would be foolish to not consider him as a serious candidate … PLEASE President Thrasher and Mr. Coburn, explore this possibility before burning more money on a coach like Mike Norvell!”
Three days later, Scott became a head coach — at USF.
Not all of the emails in the inboxes of Coburn and Thrasher were outlandish. Orlando attorney James W. Nuebel politely asked for Norvell to be considered if Stoops wasn’t interested. Anthony Harris sent a respectful plea with the subject line “Bob Stoops Please!” a day after Taggart’s firing.
“He’s the only one with the right mix of experience and energy to turn this wagon around,” Harris wrote.
And not every Stoops-related email was positive, either.
“At this point, we should swing for the fence and bring in a marquis winning coach,” Mark Holten wrote an hour after Taggart’s dismissal. “Bob Stoops is not that guy, he couldn’t win at OK and replacing him there was a good decision for the Sooners.”
Stoops won 10 Big 12 championships in 18 seasons as the Sooners’ head coach and beat FSU to win the 2000 national title.
The most frequent emailer, Steve Rodriguez, seemed initially skeptical of Stoops, too. He feared Stoops would “take your money and not work hard.” He didn’t like Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, either (“odd rep and is from up north”), nor did he like Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (“Too young, coaches in a conference that has slow fat people other than Ohio State”).
But Rodriguez eventually warmed up to Stoops. He warned FSU’s administrators to act quickly, in part because of an unexplained conspiracy involving ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit and the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum.
“Those criminals Finebaum and Herbstreit are working against you,” Rodriguez wrote, “so give Stoops the bank, then get him on the rubber chicken circuit raising money to cover his salary.”
Twelve days later, Norvell signed 17 prospects in a class, including two quarterbacks who weren’t committed when he took over.