Willie Taggart’s family once picked Florida State over him, and other things to know about the new Seminoles coach
FSU will introduce the Bradenton, Florida, native at a news conference on Wednesday
Florida State landed its top coaching pick with its hiring of Willie Taggart on Tuesday afternoon.
The 41-year-old native Floridian will be officially announced during a news conference Wednesday morning. Florida State gave Taggart a six-year, $30 million deal, which beat out Oregon’s $20 million, five-year extension to stay.
Taggart and Seminoles officials met in Arizona on Monday, with contract talks continuing into Tuesday. FSU has had only three head coaches (not including interim head coach Odell Haggins) since 1976, when Bobby Bowden was hired. Taggart replaces Jimbo Fisher, who bolted for Texas A&M’s coaching vacancy on Dec. 1.
The move doesn’t affect the number of black coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which sits at 12, because Taggart is making the jump from one head coaching gig to another.
Here are five things to know about Florida State’s new head coach.
1. HE wants to be the first black coach to win a national championship
Since the 19-year coaching veteran began working in the college game, he’s been focused on one ultimate goal: becoming the first black coach to win a national championship in football.
“My goal has been the same since I started coaching: be the first African-American head coach to win a national title,” Taggart told SB Nation last year. “I believe it can happen, I believe I can do it. I’ve never thought about the NFL. This [CFB] has always felt like a calling.”
One of the reasons Taggart received the Oregon job was because he came recommended by the first black coach to win a championship in the pros, Tony Dungy. Florida State could make Taggart’s endgame even more possible than it would be at Oregon, especially since Taggart is returning to his home state for his dream job.
Willie Taggart had 3 key recommendations for Oregon job: Tony Dungy, Jim Harbaugh & Oliver Luck
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 7, 2016
Winning a national title would be the most prominent thing Taggart could do in his career, although it wouldn’t be the first historic event in his career. The Bradenton, Florida, native was the first black coach in Oregon’s history and the first black coach at his two previous stops, Western Kentucky and South Florida.
When his Ducks faced Oregon State this season, with interim coach Cory Hall, the first black coach in Oregon State history, it was the first time in the teams’ annual “Civil War” game that two coaches of color were featured.
The matchup came eight years after Oregon became the first state to require its state universities to interview a qualified candidate of color — Oregon House Bill 3118 was modeled after the NFL’s Rooney Rule — before hiring a head coach or athletic director.
2. HE LED his high school TO two florida state CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES as starting QUARTERBACK
Twenty-five years ago, Taggart was ripping and running as a star quarterback for Bradenton Manatee High School, leading the team to consecutive Class 5A state title games as a junior and senior and a combined 26-4 record. The Hurricanes won the Class 5A state championship in 1992 and came in second the following season.
3. His family no longer has to pick Florida State over him
One of the reasons Taggart was immediately peppered with questions about his interest in the Seminoles’ job opening is that his family members are huge Florida State fans. Taggart’s brother and family members once came to a game repping Florida State when Taggart was coaching South Florida against the Seminoles. Taggart asked them to change their apparel, and the group apologized — but, uh, they wore what they wore. Sorry, not sorry.
This has nothing to do with Oregon: One of my favorite Taggart stories is when USF played FSU and some of Willie’s family showed up at the game in ‘Noles gear. They apologized, but didn’t change.
— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) December 5, 2017
While I knew Taggart liked FSU growing up in Palmetto, I didn't learn until today (from a couple of people) that the rest of his family was/is fanatical about the 'Noles. I mean, huge FSU fans.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) December 4, 2017
A while back Willie Taggart told me a story about when he was at USF, his team was playing FSU, his brother apologized to him, "Sorry but the Noles are squad, I gotta root for them." https://t.co/Lltn3X6JLw
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 5, 2017
4. your boy is one heck of a recruiter
Ahh, home sweet home. Ever since Taggart left Florida, he’s built quite a reputation for being able to poach some of the state’s best athletes.
As of Tuesday night, Oregon’s 2018 recruiting class is ranked sixth nationally by Rivals.com, which would be the highest-ranked class the school has had since the ranking began 15 years ago.
Three of the recruits in that class, two four-star and one three-star player, are from the Sunshine State. Now, imagine what Taggart will do when he’s not recruiting those same players across the country.
5. HE doesn’t leave programs worse than he found them
Before Taggart got his first opportunity as a head coach, he spent eight years as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, his alma mater, and three years on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford.
He took over the Hilltoppers, who had gone 2-22 before Taggart’s arrival, before the 2010 season. The team was 2-10 that first season, but over the next two seasons, Western Kentucky would win seven games (7-5); upset Kentucky, which was the school’s first SEC victory; and, in the 2012 season, be invited to its first FBS-level bowl game (Little Caesar’s). Taggart left for USF before the postseason game.
Taggart returned home to take over South Florida, which had gone 3-9 in 2012. Similar to his first year coaching, the Bulls went 2-10 in 2013 and 4-8 in 2014. The team continued its trend of doubling its wins, posting an 8-5 record in 2015 and a 10-2 mark in 2016.
Again, Taggart would leave the program before its bowl game to take over at Oregon. After a lackluster 4-8 season, Oregon went 7-5 this season and earned an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.