College Sports

Oregon Ducks head south, find new football coach in Florida

Former USF football coach Willie Taggart will be named the new coach at Oregon according to numerous reports on Wednesday morning.
Former USF football coach Willie Taggart will be named the new coach at Oregon according to numerous reports on Wednesday morning. ttompkins@bradenton.com

The University of Oregon needs a new football coach after firing Mark Helfrich.

The Ducks appear to have headed south.

According to numerous reports, USF coach Willie Taggart has been hired to head up the Oregon program.

South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, a former Manatee quarterback, returned home to run a youth camp at Lincoln Park in Palmetto on Tuesday July, 19, 2016.

With Oregon being a prime destination — the Ducks are bankrolled by Nike’s Phil Knight and played for a national championship just two seasons ago — there were plenty of candidates for the gig.

According to The Oregonian, the school interviewed Taggart as well as former Rutgers coach and Miami defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.

The paper reported the search process headed to New York where atheltic director Rob Mullens held more interviews.

ESPN reports Mississippi State coach and former UF assistant Dan Mullen was a finalist.

Former Bucs coach and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Tony Dungy has been very supportive of Taggart and, according to a column in the Tampa Bay Times, is getting some heat for it.

Taggart has become quite popular in the Bay area atfer turning around a USF program that seemed to hit rock bottom a few years back.

A Bay area product — Taggart grew up in Palmetto, Florida (which is near Bradenton) and starred at nearby Manatee High before playing at Western Kentucky — Taggart has led the Bulls to bowl games in the past two seasons.

The Bulls were 6-18 in Taggart’s first two seasons after he left Western Kentucky following the 2012 season; USF is 18-7 over the past two seasons with victories over I-4 rival UCF.

Taggart was 16-20 as coach at WKU. The Bulls lost to the Hilltoppers 45-35 in the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park last year.

READ MORE: Willie Taggart’s touch engulfs Miami Beach Bowl

“USF fans are livid,” Dungy told Tampa Bay Times columnist Martin Fennelly. “They think I'm a traitor. They're killing me. And all I'm saying is if someone asks me about Coach Taggart, I'm not going to say he's a bad coach, don't interview him. I won't lie.

“I was just thinking he's ideal for they want to do out there. The fact that Coach Taggart was at Stanford, he knows the Pac-12 and he's been successful in two places, getting things going. He's young, he's energetic, he kind of fits Oregon's MO. I just think he'd be a good fit.”

As for the Bulls, one report says they will go hard after former USC and Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin who is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Kiffin is reportedly a finalist for the vacant Houston job.

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