If you thought Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops were eye-popping, perhaps unbelievable options to replace Willie Taggart at Florida State, just read the next sentence. Former Seminoles All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has “emerged as a candidate” to become the next Florida State coach, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Though Sanders, 52, has coached at the high school level, he has never coached for a college program or professional team and has spent the vast majority of his post-athletic career serving as a TV analyst, first for CBS Sports and currently for NFL Network.
When Taggart was first hired at Florida State, Sanders reportedly toyed with the idea of joining his staff as defensive backs coach. That obviously never materialized.
Sanders was a two-time unanimous All-American at Florida State and the 1988 Jim Thorpe Award winner. His No. 2 jersey is retired by the Seminoles, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011. As a professional, Sanders is a two-time Super Bowl champion and eight-time Pro Bowler who was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.
It is tough to make sense of Sanders’ candidacy considering he has no legitimate experience coaching, let alone any background in running an entire major Power Five program. However, there is no doubt that the man known as “Prime Time” would be a splashy, headline-grabbing hire, and his ability to relate to players could be a massive boon for Noles recruiting if there was a plan in place for the rest of the program.
Perhaps FSU is toying with the idea of hiring Sanders primarily as a program leader with a veteran assistant head coach and coaching staff to handle much of the program building and heavy lifting.
Perhaps it is considering what Memphis basketball did last season in hiring Penny Hardaway, who like Sanders had only coached previously at the high school level. Hardaway went 22-14 with the Tigers in his first season and brought in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign with two of the top 15 and five of the top 60 prospects in the nation.
Perhaps the idea of Sanders being a candidate is solely to grab headlines without any intention of him being a legitimate option. David Coburn, who was appointed FSU’s 12th athletic director in May, has made plenty of headlines by — surprisingly — publicly discussing his coaching search, including that he is unwilling to hire Meyer but is interested in Stoops as a candidate. Coburn has said he would like a hire in place by the end of November, in time to recruit ahead of the Early Signing Period in December.
Arizona State recently went outside the box in hiring former NFL head coach Herm Edwards to oversee a “New Leadership Model,” which it touted as similar to an NFL structure with Edwards as coach and general manager. The Sun Devils have gone in 12-9 now eight games into Year 2 under Edwards, largely silencing critics who laughed at the notion.
The difference, of course, is that Edwards — despite being removed from the game in a TV role — had eight years of NFL coaching experience along with 14 years serving as an assistant. Sanders has never been in the position to manage an entire team, let alone a Power Five program and former national championship contender.
All that seems clear at this early juncture is that Florida State looks to be giving the wild Tennessee coaching search from last offseason a run for its money, and we’re only less than a week into the process.