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USF Begins Search For New Football Coach

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News
Willie Taggart, speaking at a Dec. 2015 news conference, resigned as USF football coach Wednesday to take the head coaching job at the University of Oregon.

For the third time in seven years, the University of South Florida is looking for a new head football coach.

Willie Taggart resigned Wednesday, four years to the day he took the USF job. He's been named the new head coach at the University of Oregon.

Taggart will become the first African-American head coach at Oregon, as well as the first coach hired from outside the program since 1976. A press conference announcing the hiring is scheduled for Thursday.

Tampa Bay Times sports reporter Joey Knight said taking the job is a good career move for the 40-year-old Taggart.

"Willie's going from a Group of Five conference to a school in the Power Five conference. Oregon has more resources and more money, so he's going to get a significant salary bump," Knight said.

Under Taggart, the Bulls had a 24-25 record the last four seasons, but have gone 18-7 the last two years. That includes a program record ten wins this season.

The Bulls will play South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl Dec. 29. T.J. Weist, one of the team's co-offensive coordinators, will take the head coaching position for that game.

Taggart is finishing the first year of a five year, $9 million contract with USF that he signed last year. Under the deal, he would have to pay USF a $1.7 million buyout.

“We are very proud of our record-setting football season,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft in a press release.  “We now have the foundation of our football program in place. We have a terrific group of student athletes who are laser-focused on the Birmingham Bowl and next year’s season.  We wish Coach Taggart well.”

“We will work quickly, but with careful thought and discussion to find our next football coach," said Athletic Director Mark Harlan. "We have the outstanding support of our community, and are confident that we’ll soon find the best and most qualified coach to lead our Football program.  I want to thank Willie Taggart for the leadership, energy, and excitement he brought to our program over the last four years.  The achievements of our football program both on and off the field speak for themselves.  We wish Willie and his family the very best.”

USF Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb added, “The trajectory of USF Athletics is strong.  It has elevated the spirit of our campuses as well as our national profile. I know that the young men in our football program will continue to be highly successful on the field and in the classroom.”

USF will begin a national search for a new coach, but Knight said the likely list of candidates should be topped by Charlie Strong, who was fired from the University of Texas in November after three seasons.

"He had incredible success before that at Louisville and had four different stints as an assistant coach at the University of Florida, so he knows Florida very well, as a matter of fact, his wife has family in Lakeland, I'm told, so that would be no problem," Knight said.

Other possible candidates include former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, Alabama assistant coaches Lane Kiffin and Mario Cristobal and former USF player and assistant coach Larry Scott.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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