Now that the Big XII has decided apparently for the short term future that they will not expand, a legitimate question has to be posed in Tampa, how long does USF in its current conference and conditions hang on to coach Willie Taggart?
First, if you understand the Taggart/Mark Harlan/USF football soap opera of the last two plus seasons, that is a mind blowing question above.
If you had told anyone, anyone, with knowledge of the situation after Taggart’s second season (2014) at the helm that finished 4-8, that we would be debating whether the Bulls could keep their coach from being poached for a huge raise by a Power Five (SEC, Big Ten, ACC, etc.) program, they would have laughed.
Out loud. Like, audibly.
Or, they would have asked, who’s the new head coach that we hired after 2014 that everyone now wants?
But, this is why sports is great- Taggart was backed into a corner by the new AD, Harlan, who forced out his offensive and defensive coordinators prior to 2015, and basically put an ultimatum on the season of, win or else.
And that’s exactly what his Bulls did. The young nucleus of talent came together and the Bulls rolled off seven wins out of the final eight games in the regular season and made a bowl game for the first time in five years.
In the process, Taggart naturally became a sudden hot name when jobs, particularly in the South where he’s most known and succeeded as a player and previous head coach at Western Kentucky before USF, came open.
As proof of who was taking notice, he interviewed for the vacancy at South Carolina last December, before they eventually hired Will Muschamp. Something that seemed laughable and far fetched after Taggart’s 6 combined wins in ’13-14, was now reality. You win, and they love you.
And your current school better love you, too, if they want to keep you.
That’s another part of this crazy soap opera. Shortly, after the flirtations came, Taggart amazingly got an extension and raise from Harlan and USF to remain in Tampa. Well played by him and a peek into this upcoming coaching vacancy mayhem cycle that’s already unfolding.
Now, to USF and their present success of 2016. The Bulls are off to their best start in program history at 6-1. Their prolific offense has exciting players right now, and is as fun to watch, as anyone in the Southeast. And the name Willie Taggart is going to keep coming up.
Now, we at F.F.I. aren’t suggesting that a program like LSU, which has already fired Les Miles, is going to zero in on the head Bull. That’s silly.
But consider this scenario, What if Houston’s Tom Herman, who is the leading ideal candidate to jump into that kind of job, or maybe the Texas job just down the road if they delete Charlie Strong, takes off from H-town? You don’t think that Houston would look at, interview and probably strongly consider Willie Taggart? Wake up.
What happens if Vanderbilt, an hour South from Bowling Green and Western Kentucky where Taggart is a well known legend, were to get rid of coach Derek Mason? It’s an SEC job that pays tremendously well, has built in advantages financially for your staff and facilities and would be a significant step up for a coach like Taggart, if he were to seek it.
Conversely, there is a strong argument that with what he and his staff have built at USF these last four seasons and how likely it is that they will be one of the top teams in the American Conference for the near future, that Taggart should sit tight for now. That he should continue his impressive recruiting of Florida’s fertile ground, win some more and thereby, only improve his resume’/brand name and eventual price tag.
USF and their fans obviously rejoice at that argument.
But, the double edged sword is: Winning only gets him more and more better opportunities and interviews, as he does.
In conclusion, all we’re saying is, as the openings continue this year and potentially next, get used to hearing the name “Willie Taggart” more and more.