As you may have heard, longtime Florida State soccer coach Mark Krikorian abruptly resigned yesterday. This development left many FSU fans upset, disappointed, and confused among other emotions. Let’s discuss this decision and its ramifications.
Keeping in mind that I haven’t spoken with Krikorian since he resigned, let’s start with the basics.
What We Know
Mark Krikorian (along with Bobby Bowden) was one of the two most successful coaches in Florida State history.
Krikorian took over the program in 2005 after former coach Patrick Baker left to become the head coach at Georgia. Baker had guided FSU to the first College Cup in program history but as we all know now Krikorian was about to add rocket fuel to a program that was already on the way up.
Krikorian’s accomplishments at Florida State really are too voluminous to detail fully here but I can hit the highlights. Under Krikorian’s leadership, the Seminoles won three national championships, eight ACC championships, appeared in 11 College Cups, and 15 Elite Eights. Krikorian missed the Elite Eight only twice in his entire tenure in Tallahassee. In short, Krikorian built a program that was arguably the nation’s best.
I will get into this more in my season preview (coming in only five short months) but we also know that this current team is loaded. The roster is brimming with talent and had Krikorian stayed FSU would have very likely been the top choice for a repeat national championship. The roster is so stacked that there is a good chance the Noles will be the preseason #1 almost regardless of who is named the next head coach.
That fact creates an interesting situation in Tallahassee. This is a job that will be coveted by some but others may be scared away. We will discuss this in more detail shortly.
What I’ve Heard
I haven’t talked to a single person who knew that this was coming. That is not surprising as it is rare to see a coach leave a program that has proven to be capable of winning championships that he built from (almost) the ground up. It has happened but it is rare. Also, Krikorian is only 62 years old (his birthday was on Monday) and he insists that he is not retiring.
Former Tomahawk Nation and current Tallahassee Democrat writer Curt Weiler has an interview with Krikorian where the coach confirms that he is not retiring but he claims that he doesn’t know where he will coach next.
Based on the way that the resignation announcement was handled it seems clear that there was some friction between Krikorian and the Florida State administration. Even if Krikorian simply wanted to move on to the next challenge he could have announced his decision through FSU and had a press conference on campus announcing his decision. The fact that none of this happened and he sent out an announcement to the press without mentioning any current administrator sends a very clear message.
I have heard different things about the cause of the friction and I won’t speculate here because I don’t know the truth. However, where Krikorian ends up next will likely tell us quite a bit about what led to his departure from Florida State.
What it all Means
Obviously, FSU now needs to hire a new head coach. We will discuss this in detail shortly.
Many people are wondering/nervous about the current roster regarding the transfer portal. It is possible that some players may choose to leave. However (keeping in mind that I haven’t talked with them) I don’t believe that many, if any, will choose to leave. They know that they have a great chance at another championship. Leaving FSU for another program doesn’t seem like the best option soccer-wise.
Therefore, in the short term FSU will probably be fine. In the longer term how the program responds will be determined in great part by who is hired to be the head coach.
I wrote earlier that this is a job that will be coveted by some but others may be scared away. What I meant by that is that this job has some very real advantages but there are some cautionary signs. The next coach (assuming few or no transfers) will be inheriting a championship quality roster. That is obviously a big plus. However, some coaches may be wary of this job because the standard in Tallahassee has been set so high. Also, there may be some questions in the coaching community about why Krikorian left given the strength of the roster and how well he was doing at FSU. Remember also that Krikorian was the highest paid coach in the nation and he still resigned. Given all of that, Florida State AD Michael Alford will be challenged to find a coach who can step in right away and meet those expectations even with a roster this talented.
Where the Program is Going
Assuming the roster stays mostly intact, it would be hard for any competent coach to allow the team to fall too far in the short term (next year). The NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot so there are no guarantees regarding a final placement. However, as long as the roster stays relatively intact and there aren’t a ton of injuries it would be very unlikely for this team to fall below a two seed in the NCAA Tournament even in the worst case scenario.
Therefore, the real issue is more about where the program goes in the medium to longer term and that obviously will be determined in large part on who Alford hires as the next head coach. The Seminoles have committed themselves to a national search. I have no issue with that approach. Even though everyone I have talked to has great respect for assistant coach Mike Bristol, this isn’t like the women’s basketball program where Brooke Wyckoff was the obvious choice when Sue Semrau retired. Florida State is the pre-eminent soccer program in the nation right now. FSU needs to hire the right person. So, who is that?
If I were running this search, my first (and hopefully last) call would be to the 817. That’s the area code for Fort Worth, TX for all of you non-geography majors. As you may know TCU is in Fort Worth and their soccer coach is a familiar face named Eric Bell.
Coach Bell has been at TCU for 10 years. Before that he was an assistant under Krikorian at FSU for six years. There are several coaches who could likely do a fine job at Florida State but I believe that Bell checks the most boxes. Bell has led the Horned Frogs to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last six seasons. In the last two years his overall record is 27-2-3. TCU won the Big 12 regular season title in both of those years and won the tournament title this past year. Bell built the program from the ground up. In the two years before Bell arrived TCU was a combined 14-21-3 with a paltry 2-10-1 conference record.
Bell is a coach who has demonstrated that he can win, knows how to recruit (he was the recruiting coordinator for Krikorian) and knows the system that FSU runs. That last part would normally not be so important because coaches are long term not short term hires. However, with FSU poised to contend for another national championship, the short term for this program is a bit more important than normal.
The best case scenario for this program would have been for Krikorian to stay at least another year. However, with that not possible Bell would seem to be the next best option. Would he take the job if offered? I don’t know. As we discussed earlier it isn’t a perfect job. However, the roster is stacked and if Alford offered him anywhere near Krikorian money he would likely be getting a nice raise to come east.
Whichever way Alford decides to go with this hire, the Florida State soccer program remains in good shape. Unfortunately, it isn’t in anywhere near as good a shape as it was 48 hours ago.
The comments are yours.