By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 4, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Monday morning after the news of Florida State University's Head Football Coach Willie Taggart's fireing broke, members of the Florida State Boosters say it needed to happen before the end of the season.
Les Akers, one of the members of the Boosters, says it needed to happen sooner rather than later. He recalls when Taggart was initially hired back in 2017, "I was excited about the enthusiasm that he brought to the job but I was a little concerned about the fact that he had a little bit of a suspect record; a losing record, actually."
Akers shares the decision to have Taggart in the first place still comes as a shock being that he believes Taggart was not at the level that FSU was accustomed to in years past with names like Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher.
Rick Kearney a Seminole Booster of over 20 years shares, "I think it was a great hire. I thought it was a fresh start we had all wondered what we were going to do after Bobby and Taggart was a fantastic coach with a great reputation, and a lot of energy."
"Willie is a fine man a good leader a gentleman," said Seminole Boosters CEO Andy Miller. "You want everybody that associates with Florida State to experience that success. So it was a difficult decision."
A decision that was made nonetheless. Kearney recalls that while Taggart may not have performed to many people's liking, he was presented with non-ideal circumstances, "Well of course any new coach there is going to be a transition period. Because Jimbo Fischer left things in a somewhat unstable situation so Taggart had to kind of build his own organization and I think there was a great deal of enthusiasm."
But he admits it has been a tightrope. Kearney comments on the timing of the fire, "In hindsight probably sooner and maybe we had a better season but I think you have to give everybody the benefit of the doubt and I am confident that the leadership at FSU did with Coach Taggart and vice versa."
Miller says the decision to have Taggart leave is strictly business, "You have to weight the advantages of staying the course to making a change now and we expect a win on the field that's the name of the game."
Across social media, fans shared various reactions to the decision. Some saying Taggart's $17.5 million compensation is enough, while others say the hurt of a lifelong dream gone sour is a pain no amount of money can heal.
Kearney says, "I think this is just going to be a speed bump for FSU, its going to hurt, but we have to move on and we as supporters need to support them, lets go to some game let's buy out next years season tickets, lets participate in other sports basketball, baseball, volleyball, whatever."
There has been speculation as to the Boosters having an involvement in Taggart's removal, to which Miller responds, "The report that we raised $20 million to influence that decision was erroneous. I am sure there will be opportunities for people to give who support that decision that was made and we will certainly solicit that."
Akers says Taggart's contract of $5 million a year was surprising from the start, "Can't do anything about it now but I think that contract that was given to him to begin with was unnecessary considering his background and level of achievement."
Regarding the firing of Taggart, Akers says they could not have afforded not to do it, "With the level of ticket sales being what they were this year and people not showing up, the number of people who either were stopping their giving or significantly reducing it, it would have gotten that much worse for next year."
Kearney says multiple factors such as student factors, enrollment, recruitment, booster participation, sponsorship, season tickets, concession sales and television royalties all contributed to the decision which was an absolute must, "From what I understand, FSU is losing millions and millions of dollars and, as the clock ticks, it gets worse, so we have to make this transition, we have to move on we have to build our program and get the profits flowing again to pay for this."
"We all know in businesses and organizations we often times make hires that don't work out," expresses Akers, "You fix it you fix it fast and in his situation considering the amount of money he is getting he could be disappointed in the end result but the facts speak for themselves and he has been well compensated leaving the job."
Miller says there is a certain expectation for players when they come to Florida State, "When they come in they have dreams of championships and we share those dreams together and we have to do our best to give them what they need to obtain a championship."
However in regards to the future, Miller says Haggins can help support the team throughout the rest of the season, "Odell is a true blue Seminole and he is special to anyone that wears the Garnet and Gold and I have no doubt that Odell will do a great job for us the rest of the season."
Akers furthers, "I have a lot of confidence for Odell [Haggins, who has been named the interim] and obviously he is stepping into a difficult situation but attitude and effort are everything and we have a lot of talent on that team let's just see how we finish out."
Kearney expresses he does not know what will be for the future of the team, but he hopes Haggins temporary position change will help lift morale, "I think this can create a sense of can-do, you know when the going gets tough the tough get going and I think that is really going to kick in for our team."
"We needed to make a change and number two we need to pick the right guy. The right person to come in here," says Akers, "You pick the right person that has been there done that that has the right track record, brings excitement and enthusiasm to the program, he can turn it around quickly."
The question for who will replace Taggart remains unknown but Kearney hopes things turn around for the Seminoles, "I hope to get the best out there and if we have to invest lets put the money that's needed to do that. Lets get the best guy gal whoever it is to run this team."