Willie Taggart was fired as Florida State’s head football coach back on Nov. 3rd. It came as no surprise seeing as how he went 5-7 in his first year in Tallahassee and held a 4-5 record when he was fired, but since the Noles let him go a pretty big detail of the situation has emerged.
According to Tampa Bay Times, Taggart actually never signed any sort of formal contract between the time he was hired in December of 2017 and the time he was fired back in November.
That seems, umm, strange to say the least.
It also could come back to haunt both Taggart, from a buyout perspective, and the university itself according to the report.
This same type of situation occurred with Kentucky basketball and Billy Gillispie back in 2009. Kentucky fired him, argued that it didn’t have to pay his buyout and the two parties sued each other back and forth before Kentucky eventually paid him about half of what his buyout was supposed to be.
When it comes to Taggart and the Noles the buyout is a little steeper at $18 million.
Taggart’s buyout is about six times what Kentucky paid Gillispie, but there’s a catch. FSU’s payment will be offset if Taggart secures “subsequent employment” before the term ends in early 2024.
The final potential issue could have been the biggest but is probably moot. If FSU fired Taggart without cause, it would owe him 85 percent of what’s left on his six-year, $30 million deal. But if the Seminoles terminated his employment for cause, they’d owe him nothing.
Most coaching contracts have a page or two of possible reasons to terminate employment without owing a buyout. The Seminoles’ contract with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles list 15 examples. Dan Mullen’s contract at Florida spends more than four pages on the issue.
Taggart’s deal has this: “the grounds include but are not limited to serious violation(s) of NCAA, ACC or rules and regulations or serious personal misconduct.”
The catch, however, is that Florida State reportedly never gave any type of indication that they fired Taggart for cause.
We usually don’t hear the endings to these types of buyout situations in college athletics, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be hearing more about this situation for months to come.