In what seems to be a bit of a strange move (at least to me), the University of Oregon is going to name the University of South Florida’s Willie Taggart as their next football coach. Taggart, along with Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, was one of the two finalists for the job. Taggart will be replacing Mark Helfrich, who had success early on in his tenure with the Ducks, but in recent years, including a 4-8 record this year to go with a 2-7 record in the Pac 12, was why the school wanted to move in a different direction.
I’ll be honest, I had never actually heard of Willie Taggart before I read that he was going to be Oregon’s next football coach. So like any respected journalist (I’m not one for the record, I just like to tell myself I’m one), I did some research to find out some more about coach Taggart:
Who is Willie Taggart?
Before his coaching career began, Taggart was the star quarterback at Western Kentucky University from 1995 to 1998, where he became one of only three players at the school in the previous 50 years to be a four-year starter at the position, and is also one of only four players in the school’s history to have his jersey retired.
After Taggart graduated in 1998, he stayed at the university as an assistant coach through 2006, where he served as quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, and most notably the co-offensive coordinator on the 2002 team that won the Division I-AA National Championship. He then went on to be running backs coach at Stanford University from 2007-09, and would eventually return to Western Kentucky as the first African-American head coach in school history. In his three years as head coach of the Hilltoppers, Taggart went 16-20, including two consecutive 7-5 seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Taggart was then hired by the University of South Florida on December 7, 2012, and his first two seasons did not go as he probably would have hoped as he went 2-10 in his first year, followed up by a 4-8 record in year two. He bounced back strongly going 8-5 last year to go along with an appearance in the Miami Beach Bowl. This year was even kinder to Taggart as led USF to a 10-2 record, and a share of the East Division crown in the American Athletic Conference with Temple.
What’s it mean?
It means that Chip Kelly is no longer going back to Oregon, or at least in the foreseeable future. Personally, I would have thought that with the team’s success in recent years and having the CEO of Nike as one of the school’s biggest donors, they could have gotten a bigger name as their next head coach. I’m not necessarily saying that it was a bad hire for Oregon or that Taggart can’t coach, I was just of the belief that they were somehow going to bring back Chip Kelly. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Taggart coaches at a big-time program.