With the “Coaching Carousel” still spinning this week, the intriguing unification of former USF Head Coaches Willie Taggart and Jim Leavitt at Oregon has a lot of Bulls and college football fans wondering how both ended up in the Pac 12, with the Ducks, and most curiously, together.
The answer is: this partnership has been in the making, since the late 1990’s and in large part a single name brought them together: Jim Harbaugh.
You see the current Michigan coach was the former 49ers coach in the NFL, and before that, the former Stanford coach and before that, actually volunteered as his playing career was ending with his father Jack’s staff at Western Kentucky.
And going back almost 20 years is where you find the connections/bonding that led to what has happened the last couple of weeks in Eugene, Oregon. Here goes:
Willie Taggart was a fantastic option style running QB out of Bradenton, FL, who was recruited by….Jim Leavitt as the first ever head coach of the brand new USF football program when it debuted in 1997. Taggart wound up going to WKU to play and star for the elder Harbaugh.
The Hilltoppers actually (very famously for them and locally in Tampa Bay) came into Raymond James Stadium and defeated the Leavitt Bulls in 1998 with Taggart having a tremendous game.
See the connections coming together?
Eventually after his playing career, Willie Taggart wanted to get into coaching and did so with the elder Harbaugh at WKU, then he found his way onto Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford staff as running backs coach from 2007-09. Coaching and recruiting in the Pac-12 for those three years would become vital years later.
Taggart went back to his alma matter WKU as head coach in 2010, and Jim Harbaugh would eventually leave Stanford after the 2010 season to become head coach of the 49ers starting in 2011.
Leavitt meanwhile was fired controversially from USF after the 2009 season, sat out of coaching in 2010, but eventually was hired by……Jim Harbaugh, as linebackers coach in San Francisco.
Leavitt excelled with Pro Bowlers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, as the Niners went to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. As you likely know, Harbaugh moved on the last two years to coach Michigan while Leavitt became the defensive coordinator in Colorado, again a Pac 12 school.
Picture almost in total focus?
So, with Willie Taggart having come to USF in 2013 and leading the Bulls to their most successful season ever this past year with a 10-2 record and QB Quinton Flowers being named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, he was in prime position to jump to a “Power Five” conference job. Like the opening they had at Oregon, for example.
We now know that one of the people calling the Ducks brass on Taggart’s behalf having seen what he did for him at Stanford and for his dad before that at WKU, was….Jim Harbaugh.
And now, with the latest revelation/hire that Leavitt will be leaving Colorado to join Taggart at Oregon, all of the intertwining connections are once again visible.
There may have been some other factors and influences that helped Oregon find their new head coach and now, his new defensive coordinator, but none were more prominent on this edition “College Coaching Match Game” than, Jim Harbaugh.