The storied history of Florida State football can be traced all the way back to the early 1900s, and during this time many phenomenal coaches have graced FSU with their charisma and love for the game.
As we look through the 10 best coaches in Florida State football history, there is only one dubbed the greatest ever, and I feel honored to have watched him in person close out such an illustrious career as a great coach and an even better man.
Florida State will always run thick through the veins of any true Seminole, so as fans, it’s only right that we honor the 10 best coaches in FSU football history.
Many college football fans should know that Coach Bobby Bowden has the highest winning percentage of any coach in Florida State history (.757), but few know who has the worst.
Professor Ed Williamson coached the Seminoles to a winless 1947 season as the ‘Noles went 0-5 under his reign. His .000 winning percentage is worst in school history, but as a stand-in coach hopping to get the Seminoles back to national prominence, not much was expected of Coach Williamson.
Understandably, the following year the Seminoles made a strong comeback with a new head coach NOT named Ed Williamson.
With accolades such as an All-American quarterback at Illinois, Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl Champion, a decorated United States Air Force Lieutenant, and many wins over rival University of Florida, Coach Perry Moss probably shouldn’t add head coach of Florida State football to his list.
In a time of flux after the unexpected departure of Coach Tom Nugent, FSU’s President Dr. Robert M. Strozier named former University of Miami assistant coach Perry Moss the new head coach in 1959.
Moss enjoyed little success during his time in Tallahassee, coaching the ‘Noles to a 4-6 record but managed to catch on as FSU’s Athletic Director.
That was until he decided to leave the school three days before the much anticipated FSU versus UF matchup for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes offer of $40,000 to be their head coach, causing the Seminoles to lose in Gainesville 18-8, in what was the final game of the 1959 season.
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000, Coach Darrell Mudra wishes his resume didn’t include the two years he spent at Florida State.
Compiling a lowly 4-18 record during the 1974 and 1975 seasons, Mudra’s aura of a national champ didn’t translate well in Tallahassee.
His unique style of coaching from the press box during games rather than down of the field may have worked well in D-II powerhouses of the time like Eastern Illinois and North Dakota State, but it didn’t translate well to the Seminoles style of play, proving true by looking at his win-loss record.
(W.W. Hughes is the man in the suit on the far left)
The head coach when Florida State University was still called Florida State College, W.W. Hughes was the very first person to coach a Florida State football team.
During his two years as head football coach in 1902 and 1903, Coach Hughes compiled a 5-3-1 record while also part timing as the college’s Latin instructor.
I’m currently enrolled in a Latin class here at FSU, and the fact that Coach Hughes had enough time in his schedule to study Latin while also coaching football is mind-blowing in its own right.
Coming to Florida State with a reputation as a ‘new breed of coaching’, Coach Larry Jones accumulated a stunning resume playing under Paul Dietzel during his LSU glory days, stints with LSU, South Carolina and West Point on their coaching staffs, and the defensive coach under Bill Battle at Tennessee.
He came to FSU with a tough, upperclassmen-laden squad that went to the Fiesta Bowl in 1971, but lost.
Over his three years in Tallahassee, Coach Jones amassed a 15-19 record, including a 0-11 1973 season that ultimately led to his departure from the university.
Current FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is quickly making a name for himself in the college football world.
Leading the Seminoles to a 10-4 overall record and 6-2 in the ACC in his first season, Coach Fisher saw his team take first in the ACC Atlantic and a Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory that will warrant a top 10 selection in the 2011 preseason polls.
Fisher’s three years as offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting under legendary Coach Bobby Bowden surely taught him a thing or two about the college game, triggering the No. 1 recruiting class of 2011.
Coach Fisher is as friendly and cordial as they come, always making time to talk to fans and attending other FSU sporting events, making it safe to say that with Jimbo at the helm, Florida State Football will once again begin its climb to national dominance.
Hired by Dr. Doak S. Campbell in 1948, Coach Don Veller was a part of many firsts for FSU football.
Over his five years in the head coach position, Coach Veller’s teams went 31-12-1 including the first FSU victory, its first winning season (7-1 in 1948), and its first of two undefeated seasons (8-0 in 1950).
Even more phenomenal, in Coach Veller’s first three years at Florida State, his teams won 24 of 26 games and took home the Dixie Conference title in all three years.
The passing of Dr. Don Veller on Nov. 10, 2006 was a huge blow to both the FSU football and golf teams, where he coached for 16 years after resigning from football, but his memory will forever live on at FSU and through the Seminole Golf Course named in honor of Coach Veller.
Taking over the Florida State football team in 1953 after a one-win effort in 1952, Coach Tom Nugent was a football innovator who brought with him the "I" formation.
Said Nugent of his introduction of the "I" formation; “People were very skeptical at first. They said it would never work. But it didn’t take long to realize we were onto something big.” (Wikipedia)
During his time at FSU, Coach Nugent also served as the athletic director and coached a few household names such as ESPN’s Lee Corso and actor Burt Reynolds. “He Put FSU on the map in the early years,” said Reynolds of his former college coach." (Wikipedia)
In his six years at FSU, Coach Nugent’s final record of 34-28-1 helped put FSU in the public eye and cement his legacy as a great coach.
Thought to be one of the more unique coaches in college football history, Coach Bill Peterson is credited with bringing the pro-style passing game to college football.
During his 11-year tenure with Florida State University, Coach Peterson is credited with a number of significant firsts in FSU football history.
He became the first coach to beat rival Florida both at Doak Campbell Stadium and at Florida Field, later renamed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Coach Peterson trained the first All-American in FSU’s history, Fred Biletnikoff, while also recruiting the very first African-American athlete to start for the Seminoles in J.T. Thomas.
Coach Peterson also has been known as a “Coach of Coaches” leaving a legacy of successful head coaches that got their starts under him.
This list includes: Bobby Bowden, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Dan Henning, Bobby Rossand and Ken Meyer just to name a few.
Coach Peterson finished his coaching career at FSU with a record of 62-42-11 with a win and a tie in two Gator Bowl appearances and has since been honored as a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Florida State University Sports Hall of Fame and Gator Bowl Hall of Fame.
Coach Bobby Bowden’s impact on Florida State University athletics and college football as a whole is immeasurable.
Beginning his tenure in 1976, Coach Bowden accomplished many triumphs no other coach in FSU history has duplicated.
He led his Seminoles to the 1993 National Title as well as the BCS National Championship in 1999. Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1991, Coach Bowden took home 12 ACC Championships along with the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award in that same year.
During his 34 years as Florida State’s head coach, Bowden only coached three losing seasons and accumulated an overall 315-97-4 record.
He is second on the list of most wins by a college football coach, behind legendary Joe Paterno, with a 377-129-4 record, and that’s even after vacating 12 wins due to NCAA violations during the 2006-2007 season.
Coach Bowden’s last game coaching Florida State was at the 2010 Gator Bowl where he rode off on a high note, defeating his former team West Virginia 33-21.
Coach Bowden will always be considered the greatest coach in FSU history and the history of college football, and even though he is no longer on the sidelines every Saturday for the ‘Noles, we still get the feeling that Florida State football will always be HIS team.