|Annual salary||$5 million|
|Born||August 27, 1976|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1999||Western Kentucky (WR)|
|2000||Western Kentucky (QB)|
|2001–2002||Western Kentucky (Co-OC/QB)|
|2003–2006||Western Kentucky (AHC/QB)|
|Head coaching record|
Willie Taggart (born August 27, 1976) is a former American football player and currently serves as the head college football coach at Florida State University. He previously served as head coach at Western Kentucky from 2009 to 2012, South Florida from 2013 to 2016, and Oregon in 2017. He was the first black head football coach at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon. He became the first permanent black head football coach at Florida State.
High school career
Taggart was a prep standout at Bradenton Manatee High School in Florida, where he was a first team all-state and all-conference selection as a senior after guiding the Hurricanes to the state 5A Championship game. He helped lead the football team to the state title his junior season and helped the school post a 26–4 record during that two-year span, while recording more than 3,000 yards passing and 975 yards on the ground.
After high school, Taggart became a star quarterback for the Western Kentucky University (WKU) Hilltoppers from 1995 through 1998, being one of only three WKU players in the previous 50 years to be a four-year starter at the position and one of only four Hilltoppers players to have his jersey retired. In each of his last two collegiate seasons, he was a finalist for the prestigious Walter Payton Award, which is an honor given annually to the top offensive player in I-AA football. Taggart finished fourth in the balloting in 1997 and seventh as a senior the following year. An All-American as a senior, he was also the 1998 I-AA Independents’ Offensive Player of the Year. Taggart was recruited to WKU by Jim Harbaugh to play for his father, Jack Harbaugh.
Early coaching years
After graduating from WKU in 1998, Taggart stayed on at the school as an assistant through 2006, serving as co-offensive coordinator under Jack Harbaugh on the Hilltoppers' 2002 Division I-AA national champions. He also worked alongside Harbaugh's son Jim, who had been an unpaid certified assistant coach under his father in the final years of his NFL career.
When Jim Harbaugh was named head coach of the Stanford Cardinal football team following the 2006 season, he hired Taggart as his running backs coach. Taggart served in that role for the next two seasons, developing Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart into a star during that time. The younger Harbaugh also gave Taggart responsibility for recruiting in Taggart's home state of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Riverside County, California.
In 2010, Taggart left his position at Stanford as the running backs coach in order to become the head football coach of his alma-mater, Western Kentucky. In their first year under Taggart, the Hilltoppers broke a 26-game losing streak while finishing the season with a record of 2–10.
In 2011, Taggart led WKU to a 7–5 season, where the Hilltoppers lost the first 4 games of the season, but then won 7 of their last 8 games. Although having a winning record, they were not invited to a bowl game that year. In 2012, Taggart led WKU once again to a bowl-eligible record of 7–5. The Hilltoppers accepted an invitation to play Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl on December 26, 2012, on ESPN. However, Taggart did not coach in this bowl game having already accepted the head coaching position of the South Florida Bulls on December 7, 2012.
On December 7, 2012, Taggart took over as head coach at the University of South Florida in his native Tampa Bay area.
In his first season, Taggart led the Bulls to a 2–10 season. The following season, Taggart's team doubled the number of wins and finished with a 4–8 record. During the off-season, Taggart made several personnel changes, including replacing the offensive and defensive coordinators. The change of schemes as well as the development of his first two recruiting classes provided the team with much needed energy and depth of positions.
In 2015, led by conference leaders quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack, the Bulls started the season 1–3 before finishing the regular season with a record of 8–5 and earning bowl eligibility for the first time in five years. The Bulls lost to WKU in the Miami Beach Bowl.
In 2016, the Bulls went 10–2 and won a share of the AAC East division. This was the Bulls first double digit win season in school history.
In January 2017, three Oregon football players were hospitalized after grueling military-style workouts. Multiple sources described the workouts to the Oregonian as "akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs." Taggert personally visited the ill and hospitalized players to wish them a speedy recovery. "I have visited with the three young men involved in the incidents in the past few days and I have been in constant contact with their families, offering my sincere apologies,” Taggart said in the statement. “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. 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.”
Taggart's hiring at Oregon drew attention to the low number of African American head coaches in major college football (14 out of 128 schools). The hiring came several years after Oregon’s passing of House Bill 3118, which requires state-funded schools to interview qualified minority candidates for top coaching and athletic administration positions.
Oregon went 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-12 in 2017 with Taggart at the reins. The Ducks beat Nebraska, Arizona and rival Oregon State. They were bested by UCLA, Stanford and Washington. Additionally, the Ducks lost The Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State on December 16 with Mario Cristobal at the helm after Taggart accepted the position at Florida State.
In his first season, the Seminoles finished 5-6, their first losing season since 1976, Bobby Bowden's first year. They were not invited to a bowl for the first time since the end of the 1981 season, breaking the longest active bowl appearance streak in FBS. Florida State fans were not used to staying home for bowl season, and there were numerous calls for Taggart's firing. However, school president John Thrasher and athletic director Dave Coburn voiced confidence in Taggart. According to a story in Bleacher Report, Florida State had bottomed out in 2018 due in part to cultural problems dating from Fisher's tenure.
Head coaching record
|Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Sun Belt Conference) (2010–2012)|
|2012||Western Kentucky||7–5||4–4||5th||Little Caesars Pizza*|
|Western Kentucky:||16–20||13–11||* Departed Western Kentucky for South Florida before bowl game|
|South Florida Bulls (American Athletic Conference) (2013–2016)|
|2015||South Florida||8–5||6–2||2nd (East)||L Miami Beach|
|2016||South Florida||10–2||7–1||T–1st (East)||Birmingham*||19||19|
|South Florida:||24–25||18–14||* Departed South Florida for Oregon before bowl game|
|Oregon Ducks (Pac-12 Conference) (2017)|
|2017||Oregon||7–5||4–5||4th (North)||Las Vegas*|
|Oregon:||7–5||4–5||* Departed Oregon for Florida State before bowl game|
|Florida State Seminoles (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2018–present)|
|2018||Florida State||5–7||3–5||T–5th (Atlantic)|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title or championship game berth|
Notable head coaches under whom Taggart has served:
- Jack Harbaugh: Western Kentucky (1999–2002)
- David Elson: Western Kentucky (2003–2006)
- Jim Harbaugh: Stanford (2007–2009)
Assistant coaches under Willie Taggart who became NCAA head coaches:
- Tom Allen: Indiana (2016–present)
- Lance Guidry: McNeese State (2016–present)
- Mike Sanford Jr.: Western Kentucky (2017–2018)
- Mario Cristobal: Oregon (2018–present)
- Walt Bell: Massachusetts (2019–present)
- "Personnel Changes", On Campus, Western Kentucky University, 10 (7), p. 23, 2000
- "Notable Kentucky African Americans – Taggart, Willie". Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- "Fans react to Taggart being FSU's first black permanent head football coach". Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- "Get To Know Willie Taggart « CBS Tampa". Tampa.cbslocal.com. December 8, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "WKU Names Willie Taggart New Head Football Coach" (Press release). Western Kentucky University Department of Athletics. November 23, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- "Western Kentucky hires Stanford assistant Willie Taggart as coach – USATODAY.com". usatoday.com.
- "WKU Football Accepts Invitation To Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, WillFace Central Michigan". Wbko.com. December 2, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "Welcome Home Willie Taggart". GoUSFBulls.com.
- Moseley, Rob (December 7, 2016). "Taggart Named Head Football Coach". GoDucks.com (Oregon Athletics official site).
- "Report: 3 Oregon football players hospitalized after 'grueling' workouts". ESPN.com. January 17, 2017.
- "Oregon takes action after football players hospitalized". Associated Press , WTSP. January 18, 2017.
- Adam Kilgore (December 9, 2016). "Oregon law could be college football's version of the 'Rooney Rule'". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- "Meet Willie Taggart, FSU's next head coach". SBNation.com. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
- Matt Hayes (June 24, 2019). "The Mess Jimbo Left: Inside FSU's Fall and Willie Taggart's Plan to Rise Again". Bleacher Report.
- "willie taggart jackson – Bing Images". Bing.com. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- "Willie Taggart Bio – GoUSFBulls.com—Official Athletics Web Site of the University of South Florida". gousfbulls.com. Retrieved December 8, 2016.