One of the first things former University of South Florida coach Willie Taggart did after he took control of the Oregon Ducks last month was to replace the school’s legendary strength and conditioning coach, Jim Radcliffe.
So, how’s that working out? Well, Taggart probably isn’t having any second thoughts. After all, he replaced Radcliffe with Irele Oderinde, who served Taggart in pretty much the same capacity for three years at USF.
Everyone else, though, may be wondering just what it is Taggart has done, especially after three players had to be sent to the hospital late last week and remained there Tuesday afternoon after they failed to survive one of Oderinde’s intense workouts.
As a result, the school announced on Tuesday night that it has suspended Oderinde for a month without pay and Taggart, who all but called the Ducks soft upon his arrival in Eugene, has taken full responsibility for the issue.
“As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first,’’ Taggart said in a statement released by the school late Tuesday.
“I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university. I want to thank our medical staff and doctors for caring for all of our young men, and I want to apologize to the university, our students, alumni and fans.’’
As a result of the hospitalizations, Oderinde will no longer report to Taggart but will instead report directly to the university’s Director of Performance and Sports Science.
This all could have been avoided perhaps had Taggart just kept Radcliffe around, but as we noted earlier it’s clear Taggart believes the Ducks poor play in recent years was due in part to a lack of strength and/or conditioning.
It also should also be noted that this was the first time since 2004 that the Ducks had not qualified for a bowl game and had not been allowed to practice in December, because of that.
The controversy has dominated the internet and sports radio in Oregon the last couple of days, and in fairness, there have been a couple players defending the workouts, too. According to Oregonlive.com, “Junior cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi wrote on Twitter: “The workout was not even what the media is portraying it to be.”
Meanwhile, during his introductory press conference in December Taggart emphasized conditioning, “I think overall as a football team, we’ve got to get bigger and stronger. That usually wins in football.’’
So does keeping your players healthy. And that’s tough enough, what with the way players just naturally get beat up during practice and games. The last thing a coach needs to do is beat them up on his own.