TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State’s athletic department is thriving under Stan Wilcox.
Since Wilcox became the Seminoles’ AD in 2013, Florida State has won national championships in three sports. Wilcox isn’t standing pat, he’s already made one major hire and is expected to make another over the next 12 months.
Wilcox hired Willie Taggart last December as Florida State’s new football coach, a move he made less than a week after Jimbo Fisher resigned to go to Texas A&M. It marked Wilcox’s first major coaching hire at Florida State and the first time the school went outside the football program to get a head coach in 41 years.
Wilcox’s second major coaching hire will happen once next year’s baseball season ends and Mike Martin retires after 40 seasons as a manager. Martin has the most wins in college baseball.
The AD can only hope his choice for baseball will go over as well as his Taggart hire. The Palmetto, Florida, native, who grew up a Florida State fan, has energized the football fan base that had grown tired of yearly reports of Fisher seeking greener pastures. The April 14 spring game – Taggart’s first – drew a program-record crowd of 60,934.
”He already knows the level of play that the Seminole family has come to expect, and as well as our current and future student athletes, they know that, what is expected of them,” Wilcox said of Taggart. ”Now he’s set the stage and all he has to do now is come in and win games and we’re back.”
Wilcox and university President John Thrasher also expect to announce plans for a football operations building by the Sept. 3 opener against Virginia Tech. The building, which would include coaches offices, a weight room and meeting space for players, could be constructed next to the indoor practice facility.
University officials also have discussed renovating the Moore Athletics Center, which is attached to Doak Campbell Stadium, for football only, but that would require relocating the athletic department and the College of Communications. Taggart said following spring practices that he favors a new facility instead of renovations.
Wilcox is also looking at ways that a football facility could benefit all sports.
”We still want to have a hub central location for all the academic activities as well as a training table for that all our student athletes can come to, and be able to eat a meal together,” he said. ”So it’s not just your teammates, but you’re getting to know the student athletes in other sports.”
Wilcox is pleased that Martin will coach one more season for two reasons: Martin is 13 wins away from becoming the first NCAA coach in any sport to get 2,000 victories and it allows fans throughout college baseball a chance to honor Martin for what he has done in and for the sport.
The Seminoles have made the College World Series 16 times under Martin but remain in search of their first national title.
”The positive is that Mike has created it to be a very desirable position. The negative is that whoever comes in has big shoes to fill, and very high expectations of that person coming in the door,” Wilcox said. ”Sometimes that next person is not always going to end up being successful as you want them to be, and you may have to take a little while to get the right person. So but we’re going to try to do our due diligence to make sure that we find the right person.”
Despite football having to go on a four-game winning streak to avoid its first losing season since 1976, Florida State finished ninth in the Directors’ Cup Division I standings, which is a benchmark that entire athletic programs are judged by because it awards points based on each school’s finish in up to 20 sports. That is the first time FSU has finished in the top 10 in the standings since 2011-12. In Wilcox’s first four years, the Seminoles average finish was 14.5.
The reasons for the high finish was softball winning the national championship , women’s beach volleyball reaching the final and men’s basketball getting to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993. The ninth-place finish is also the highest among Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
”It’s amazing that this year has turned out the way it has. It started out looking bleak, but it’s ending up very positive, I think, for everybody,” Wilcox said.