Norvell leaves lasting legacy in Memphis

Norvell leaves lasting legacy in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sunday, Florida State named Mike Norvell their new head coach.

After four years, Norvell made the hard choice to leave Memphis and jump to the Power 5.

The word of Norvell's impending departure put somewhat of a pall over the program, like the fog that surrounded the Liberty Bowl for part of the Tigers’ American Athletic Conference championship game victory over Cincinnati Saturday.

After a quick meeting to inform his former team Sunday morning in Memphis, Norvell boarded a jet for Tallahassee. There he was introduced as the new head coach of the Florida State Seminoles.

He’s trading in his usual blue and gray for a garnett and gold tie, Norvell spent part of his news conference thanking Memphis for his first opportunity to be a college head coach.

Just four years ago, a 34-year-old Mike Norvell was having his introductory news conference in the Bluff City as the Memphis Tigers Head Coach.

Norvell, taking over a once floundering program where the foundation for success had already been laid by previous head coach Justin Fuente, gave his own blueprint for success to Tiger fans.

''Our football team were gonna play smart. We're gonna play fast, we're gonna play physical. And we're gonna be passionate about finishing. In everything that we do,” said Norvell.

And it worked.

After an 8-5 first season, Norvell’s Tigers became a fixture on national television with wins over ranked teams.

There was the thriller over UCLA, 48-45, and then the slobber knocker against conference rival Navy 30-27.

The 10-3 season only marred by losses the American Championship to UCF in triple overtime on the road and in Memphis’ first ever trip to the hometown Liberty Bowl to Iowa State by one point.

After another eight-win season in 2018, Norvell’s Tigers rocketed out of the gate this year -- favored to win every game they played.

They almost did.

After beating Ole Miss in the season opener 15-10, once again on national TV, the Tigers hit cruise control until that fateful day in Philadelphia.

A turnover-prone first half and a controversial call late, cost Memphis and undefeated season, but didn't deter the Tigers from their stated goal.

That set the stage for the stretch run, the blowout of Tulane, the escape at Tulsa.

Unforgettable Game Day the morning of the SMU game, and the capper at night with the win over the Ponies in front of a conference record of more than 59,000 fans at the Liberty Bowl.

Nothing left but to finish it off with two straight wins over Top 20 AAC Rival Cincinnati back to back.

The latter for the American Championship, Memphis' first outright league title in 50 years.

The win putting the U of M in Cotton Bowl as the Group of 5 winner, the highest accomplishment Norvell could have at Memphis.

Now it's time, once again, to regroup for the Memphis Tigers Football team after a successful coach has left for a Power 5 program.

Norvell had taken the Tigers to their highest of heights, a berth in the Cotton Bowl against Penn State, but that's as far as he could go here.

The Memphis program is in even better shape than when he got here four years ago and that’s all you could ask of any professional, in any position, in any job.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.