FSU on the lookout for new president; Ed Commissioner, other big FL names are being floated

Florida State University's Jennie Murphree Hall. Credit: FSU, University Housing website.

As Florida State University works to find a successor for President John Thrasher, some names are already floating about as potential candidates.

Some have strong ties to Florida government but little on-the-ground experience in the education field. Others are within the Florida State University sphere and already have campus experience.

One name that sticks out is Richard Corcoran, the current Florida Education Commissioner who is a Republican and an attorney and previously served as a Florida Speaker of the House. When he was chosen for the Education Commission job in 2018, some critics noted his lack of education experience.

Cheryl Etters, spokesperson for the Department of Education, could not confirm the validity of the potential candidacy, saying it was the first she’s heard of it.

Another name floating about is Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieutenant governor during then-Charlie Christ’s gubernatorial tenure and a former Republican member of the Florida House Representative. He currently has a law firm in Tallahassee. Kottkamp did not respond when the Phoenix attempted to contact him to confirm or deny his potential candidacy for FSU president.

A name with a strong education background is Frank Brogan, a former assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education during the Trump Administration and then-U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

He has had a long career in education and Florida politics, including lieutenant governor under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. He was elected to serve as Education Commissioner in 1994. Brogan was previously president of Florida Atlantic University until 2009 until he was selected to be chancellor of Florida’s state universities.

He served as a fifth-grade teacher in Martin County as well the superintendent of Martin County.

He was recently in consideration for president of Indian River State College, but dropped out of the running last July for unclear reasons, according to an article from TCPalm.

The Phoenix made efforts to find contact information for Brogan but were unsuccessful.

Two other names are floating within the Florida State University sphere:  David Coburn, vice president of FSU and athletics director, and Randy Hanna, dean of the FSU campus in Panama City.

Before his time at FSU, Coburn worked in the Florida Capitol as chief of staff in both the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, and has held other positions in the Capitol, according to his bio page. Coburn’s page also includes that he is a “triple Florida State alumnus having earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, and a Juris Doctorate from the FSU College of Law.”

The Phoenix attempted to contact Coburn but did not get a response.

As for Hanna, he said that he has “no active plans” in pursuing the position, even though it’s been suggested to him that he look into it.

“I am focused on what I’m doing here,” he told the Phoenix, referring to the Panama City campus.

Another name being floated is attorney Sean Pittman. His law firm specializes in government, administrative, and corporate law, according to the firm’s website, and he was a student body president when he attended FSU.

The website also notes that Pittman served as the finance chair for Democrat Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign against Republican Ron DeSantis.

The Phoenix reached out to Pittman for comment but did not get a response.

Jeff Kottkamp’s name was misspelled earlier in the story. It has been corrected. The Phoenix regrets the error.