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FSU’s coaching search, with updates: Ole Miss pursuing Mike Norvell?

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NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Memphis at Ole Miss Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wow, y’all flooded the comments section of that last piece in record time. So here’s a new updates article as your reward.

We’ve kept the history below, so you can look back at how we’ve gotten to now, as well as the pros and cons of the likely suspects. As always, check back here for fresh updates.

Wednesday, December 4, 9:22 pm update:

For the record, we still think Norvell is taking a Florida State offer over any from other prospective suitors— and it sounds like that could include Ole Miss. David Johnson of the Ole Miss Spirit has said that Norvell could be sitting down with the OM AD this week. But again, we think FSU remains in the driver’s seat here.

It looks like the ship has sailed on Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, who signed an extension with the Cyclones, and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, who could be preparing to do the same with the Irish. And Penn State’s James Franklin appears unlikely, too.

Tuesday, December 3, 9:22 am update:

Let’s not overthink this. There’s a reason FSU set a goal of announcing its next head football coach by the end of November— although, in hindsight, perhaps it shouldn’t have done so publicly. But anyway, that reason is December’s Early Signing Period, which isn’t getting farther away.

The regular-season schedules of both Penn State’s James Franklin and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell ended on Saturday, and neither are playing in a conference title game. Logically speaking — and that doesn’t always apply to coaching hires — the more time that passes, the less likely either is to be the next Seminoles’ HC.

So that really brings the spotlight to a pair of candidates: Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, whose Tigers are playing in the AAC title game on Saturday afternoon, and Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins. I can’t believe that Norvell, who’s interviewed elsewhere previously, would turn down an opportunity to move up from a G5 gig to the FSU job, and we know where Haggins stands.

Monday, December 2, 4:47 pm update:

Not much came from that USC meeting last night, but FSU is preparing for a presser. The below image was taken inside the Champions Club today.

And the field is now completely painted.

Sunday, December 1, 7:54 pm update:

Okay, so USC is holding a team meeting tonight at 8:30 pm ET. It now appears to have been part of the schedule all along, but this is still worth keeping an eye on.

I’ve written previously about how the dominoes could begin to fall from LA. If the Trojans announce they’re retaining Clay Helton as coach, then James Franklin isn’t heading there from Penn State, and Matt Campbell won’t be eying the opening in PA. If Helton is fired, Urban Meyer taking the USC job could dictate possible movement by Franklin and Campbell elsewhere. If Helton’s axed and Meyer isn’t interested in Southern Cal— well that could be trouble for FSU. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 1, 12:07 am update:

Well, Florida State has now officially missed its goal of announcing a new hire by the end of November. Our latest on FSU’s search for its next head coach goes like this— and the latest Nolecast offers further insight.

We could expect a new coach announced within the next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday but perhaps as early as Sunday. This could be delayed by one of the candidates having to play in a conference title game, but most of the realistic options won’t be doing so. And bowl games shouldn’t play a big part. Unless you’re in the College Football Playoff, a bowl game is largely an overblown exhibition game, one which pales in comparison to getting on the recruiting trail for your new program to firm up commitments ahead of December’s Early Singing Period, when most prospects now put ink to paper to finalize their decisions.

Penn State’s James Franklin is probably the leader for the FSU job, but the possible opening at USC still figures in largely with that. And keep an eye on Southern Cal now— since Utah beat Colorado on Saturday, the Utes secured their place in the Pac-12 title game over the Trojans, meaning USC is done until its bowl. If Southern Cal is gonna make a move at HC, the time is now.

Matt Campbell, of Iowa State, remains on the same tier with Franklin, and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly should not be disregarded, but he seems less likely than the other two.

Mike Norvell, of Memphis, is on the next tier, and he’s the lone coach included in this update with a conference title game next weekend. And while we can’t count out interim FSU head coach Odell Haggins, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of momentum behind his candidacy.

Tuesday, November 26, 7 am update:

We posted this in yesterday’s ’Noles News, but it deserves inclusion here. Vegas is offering odds on the next man to lead the Seminoles, and the top contender is Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

As you can see by scrolling down further, we listed Campbell as one of our initial options for FSU. In fact, we’ve written about every coach mentioned in the tweet below during our coverage of this search.

Monday, November 25, 6:16 am update:

It was a slow few days for FSU football news. The Seminoles took time off for a bye weekend, and information about their head-coaching search slowed as well. But I wrote about how USC’s win over UCLA could affect that process, specifically regarding Penn State HC and FSU-target James Franklin. And after Franklin’s Nittany Lions gave Ohio State, perhaps the best team in the country, a real fight, his value may have increased.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday, November 20, 5:50 pm update:

This is discussed on the latest Nolecast, so check that out for further explanation, but we’re reiterating our belief that Bob Stoops to FSU won’t materialize. Florida State did spend at least a couple of days last week flying around to meet with either coaches and/or their representation. Memphis, Cincinnati, Dallas, Atlanta, and San Diego appear to have been stops, but that doesn’t mean that candidates are necessarily in those areas. Sometimes these meetings take place at neutral locations, like when the Seminoles met with Willie Taggart in Phoenix prior to Taggart’s hiring from Oregon.

We also have some new names to mention here, beginning with Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. FSU has shown interest in the Irish head coach, but we’re not sure if that interest is mutual. Kelly won a pair of D-II national titles at Grand Valley State before continuing to amass victories at Central Michigan and then Cincinnati before heading to South Bend. Money is never going to be even a hint of a problem at Notre Dame— but entrance requirements are more strict than those in Tallahassee.

Navy v Notre Dame Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Another new name is that of former Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos head coach Jack Del Rio. This is mostly Jacksonville people talking, so take it for what it’s worth (not a lot). While he was a great player at USC, Del Rio has no collegiate coaching experience of any kind.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans

Mark Richt, FSU’s former offensive coordinator and head coach at Georgia and Miami, was contacted. But in what capacity that conversation took place remains to be seen. His recent health issues make his consideration doubtful.

Pittsburgh v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The names with which we began, included below, remain possibilities (although, again, Bob Stoops seems quite unlikely).

Monday, November 18, 7:00 am update:

We’ve only become more confident that Bob Stoops to the Seminoles isn’t happening. However, we take issue with those asserting that he never was a candidate. The top names to pay attention to at this point are Mark Stoops, P.J. Fleck, Mike Norvell, Odell Haggins, and Matt Campbell— not necessarily in that order. Yes, Fleck has signed his extension with Minnesota, but the real prohibitive buyout of $10 million doesn’t kick in until December. Before that, it looks to be in the neighborhood of $3-4.5 million. You know, walkin’ around money.

And yeah, we saw that tweet about Campbell interviewing with FSU after the Cyclones’ regular season concludes. We’re not saying the two sides haven’t spoken, but we don’t know the source to be credible, so we’re not reproducing it here. Noles 247 did report that Florida State gave Haggins a formal interview on Sunday, and we’ve no reason to doubt that.

Friday, November 15, 2:37 pm update:

This is why we were diligent in our reporting while others were shouting to anyone who would listen or retweet them that Bob Stoops to FSU was a done deal.

Wednesday, November 13, 2:54 pm update:

A few adjectives come to mind when regarding the most recent prospects of Bob Stoops being the next head coach at Florida State: encouraged and confident— yet cautiously guarded. As Bud and Ingram discussed on the most recent Nolecast, Stoops to FSU is probably not the done deal you’ve heard, but he’s also not likely to have turned the Seminoles down, as of now. And you should be bolstered that no other names have been bandied about recently, but reminded that Stoops has walked away from the table before.

Simply put, there’s a lot to figure out for whomever will be taking over for the ’Noles: how the future President and AD positions will be handled, support staff, and as well as coaching staff decisions, in addition to the normal minutiae of a new contract. These things take time.

Let’s attempt to corral this madness. The Seminoles are in the market for their next head football coach, and as is par for the social-media course, lunacy has ensued. So we’re here to inject a little perspective, in the form of disseminating which hires are actually viable for the ’Noles. We’ll update this piece as new information becomes available, but keep in mind that this list is neither exhaustive nor an endorsement.

Bob Stoops

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Auburn v Oklahoma Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

This is FSU’s top choice. But despite what some want you to believe, nothing appears to have been finalized as of yet. As per usual, many without real information will hazard guesses, hoping they’re right so that they can later claim to have been first with the news. But the retired Stoops is an attractive option because he brings massive clout and experience, as a former national champion head coach with Oklahoma— and the fact that he doesn’t require a buyout only helps, even if the ’Noles will likely make it up in salary. However, Stoops hasn’t been the biggest fan of recruiting in the southeast.

Several national voices have been quite down on the possibility of Stoops taking over in Tallahassee, but early denial is often the name of the game when it comes to the extended courtship involved between big-name programs and top-tier coaches.

Mark Stoops

Kentucky v Georgia Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A former Seminole defensive coordinator (2010-2012), Mark is Bob’s younger brother and currently the head coach at Kentucky. In addition to experience in Tallahassee, he’s done a nice job resurrecting Wildcat football at a basketball school, but he’s far from the most inspiring target out there. Then again, his $1.75 million buyout is far from prohibitive, and FSU is far from drowning in cash.

James Franklin

Penn State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Franklin’s name was bandied about when Florida State was last searching for a head coach, and his star is on the rise. The Penn State team he leads is 8-0 and 4th in the first College Football Playoff rankings. His $1 million buyout isn’t much, and he has head coaching experience in the southeast, having helmed the ship at Vanderbilt from 2011-2013. Competing against Clemson every year doesn’t sound like much of a draw— but Franklin is a great recruiter, and the Big Ten East is no slouch either. Still, would he want to leave Happy Valley, given what he’s built with the Nittany Lions?

Mike Norvell

Memphis v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Norvell’s was another name mentioned the last time FSU sought a new boss. The Memphis head coach has limited head coaching experience, having been in charge of the Tigers since just 2016, but his 8-1 team boasts a top-10 SP+ offense. With a buyout of only $500,000, the price is right. And he’s only 38.

P.J. Fleck

Minnesota v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

After a year coaching receivers for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Fleck debuted as a head coach with Western Michigan prior to taking over at Minnesota in 2017. The Golden Gophers are 8-0 (an inflated record against the Big Ten Coastal — er, West). Still, they have a top-25 offense and defense, per SP+ rankings, which is adjusted for opponents. But Fleck just agreed to a big extension in Minneapolis, and the buyout of $4 million is pricey, especially for a guy with no college coaching experience of any kind south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Matt Campbell

Iowa State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Winning at Iowa State isn’t easy, but Campbell has shown that it’s more than possible, having captured Big 12 Coach of the Year honors for the last two seasons. Like Fleck, he’s another midwesterner, and also like Fleck, his buyout is high: north of $6 million. It’s a matter of time before Campbell bolts Ames— could that time be now?

Gus Malzahn

Auburn v LSU Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Now Auburn’s head coach, Malzahn was the OC for the Tigers or War Eagles or Peace Lillies or whatever when they won the national title in 2010. All he needed was a future No. 1 pick QB— so he’s basically Jimbo Fisher. Kidding. But Malzahn is the guy they love to hate on the Plains, so if he wants a change of scenery, he could inherit the same role in Tallahassee.

Odell Haggins

Florida State Announces Firing of Head Football Coach Willie Taggart - New Conference Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Florida State’s interim head coach for the second time in three years, Haggins’ loyalty to the program is unquestionable. He’s an exceptional recruiter, but would this be a longterm move for the future, or a temporary, feel-good fix? Haggins is also the only guy on this list without any extended head-coaching experience— are the Seminoles in a position to let him learn on the job?

Again, there are more candidates out there. And while some are more likely hires than others, we find these to be plausible — if not probable — options. We’re not here to waste your time, which is why we present the following most recent “possibility” without comment.

More and more people are talking about this Sanders thing— and we couldn’t resist joining in the fun.