Coaching Changes - Florida State, UCF, Rice Find New HC's

December 6, 2017 by Dave Congrove

It was a busy day on the coaching carousel Tuesday as Florida State announced Willie Taggart as its next head coach, while UCF tabbed Missouri OC Josh Heupel and Rice plucked Stanford's OC.

On December 10, 2016, Willie Taggart was the head coach at USF. On the 11th of December in 2016, he was the head coach at Oregon. Less than a year later - on Tuesday (December 5, 2017) - he was announced as the successor to Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Fisher resigned on Friday (December 1) to accept the head coaching job at Texas A&M, replacing the fired Kevin Sumlin. Fisher was 83-23 overall, 48-17 in the ACC, and 5-2 in bowl games and postseason playoff games. His teams won 3 straight ACC titles from 2012-2014, and the 2013 squad went 14-0 and won the last Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national title. Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles coach, served as interim head coach for FSU's make-up home game versus Louisiana-Monroe which the 'Noles won to become bowl eligible at 6-6.

Taggart, the former Western Kentucky quarterback, and later head coach, has quickly built a reputation as a man with great recruiting strengths and the ability to rebuild programs in a hurry. It shouldn't be difficult to recruit, or rebuild, one of the top football programs in the country. While his 47-50 overall record isn't scintillating, his final year at each of the three schools he's coached have produced winning seasons and a combined mark of 24-12. He was 7-5 this season at Oregon after last year's team went 4-8 under Mark Helfrich. Oregon named co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal as interim head coach through the bowl season.

Sumlin was considered to be a prize catch by Texas A&M after he had led Houston to a 12-0 record in 2011 before the Cougars fell to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship game. The former Texas A&M assistant under R.C. Slocum in 2001 and 2002 was fired from the Aggies on November 26, the day after a loss at LSU  dropped the team to 7-5. Sumlin was 51-26 overall in 6 seasons, and barely above water in SEC games at 25-23. His first team lost just 2 games, the second lost 4, and each of the last four teams have had 5 losses. Texas A&M, of course, is in the SEC Western division which is packed with traditional powers Alabama, Auburn and LSU. Special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was named interim head coach for the Aggies' bowl game.

UCF wasted no time naming a replacement for Scott Frost. The school on Tuesday (December 5) announced that their new guy is Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. UCF's website touts the dramatic improvement of Missouri's offense under Heuple, noting that the Tigers ranked 124th in the nation in total offense in 2015. After Heupel arrived in 2016, the Tigers led the SEC and were 13th nationally. In 2017, Mizzou ranked No. 7 in the nation in total offense and 10th in scoring at 39.3 points per game. Heupel was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2000 when he led Oklahoma to an undefeated season and a national championship with an 11-2 victory over Florida State, though FSU's Chris Weinke won the Heisman.

Frost became Nebraska's next coach on Saturday (December 2), immediately after UCF beat Memphis in the American Conference Championship game at UCF. Nebraska fired Mike Riley on Saturday (November 25) after the 'Huskers concluded a 4-8 campaign with a 56-14 loss at home to Iowa in game that was tied 14-apeiece at the half. Riley was 19-19 overall in three seasons in Lincoln, and 12-14 in the Big Ten. Reports said Frost's hire was a done deal earlier in the week, but was kept under wraps out of respect for his current team with a pending conference championship and undefeated season on the line. the Knights won a double-overtime thriller, sealing the deal with an interception on the Tigers' potential game-tying possession. UCF named offensive coordinator Troy Walters as interim head coach for day-to-day operations while Frost tends to Nebraska matters like the early signing period, but Frost will reportedly coach UCF in its New Year's Six bowl game. As expected, the playoff selection committee placed the Knights in the Peach Bowl where they will face Auburn.

Also on Tuesday (December 5), it was reported that Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren will be the next head coach at Rice. Bloomgren has been on the Cardinal staff since 2011 and, before that, was an NFL assistant with the New York Jets from 2008-2010. Rice announced the dismissal of 11-year head coach David Bailiff on Monday (November 27). The program was backsliding since winning the Conference USA title in 2013 when the Owls went 10-4. Over the next four years, Rice went 8-5, 5-7, 3-9 and now 1-11. Bailiff was a cumulative 57-80 overall with a 40-48 mark in Conference USA games. By enrollment, Rice is the 5th-smallest school in the FBS with 6,740 undergrad and post-grad students (2016).

See: Coaching Changes