Alex Krutchik, Correspondent (@AlexKrutchikFS on Twitter)
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) –New Florida State head coach Willie Taggart is coming home. In an emotional introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, Taggart described the FSU head coaching position as his “dream job”.
Taggart’s arrival brings an end to what’s been a roller coaster of a week for FSU and its administration. The school parted ways with eight-year head coach Jimbo Fisher after he signed a 10-year, $75 million contact with Texas A&M. Around 10:45 A.M., he exited his SUV outside of Doak Campbell Stadium and immediately embraced university President John Thrasher. He walked through a tunnel of cheerleaders and FSU band members, emphatically doing the Tomahawk Chop as the iconic Seminole Warchant blared all around him.
“I can finally say ‘I’m in,’” said the new coach, with eyes watering from emotion. “I wanted to come here and play. I guess I wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship to play here…No matter where I went, the Seminoles were always a part of me.”
The 41-year-old has been a Seminole his entire life, along with the rest of his family.
“If you weren’t a ‘Noles fan, you probably weren’t staying in that house,” said Taggart, about his family’s die-hard commitment to the ‘Noles.
Taggart coached at the University of South Florida from 2013-2016, and even then, his family had to root for FSU. Taggart described a time when his brother told him that he was still going to cheer on the Seminoles, even when Taggart coached a game against FSU.
Taggart was offered the FSU job after his one-year stint with the University of Oregon. He thanked Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullins, and said that the decision to leave was hard. However, he said, the situation was too good to pass up.
“I wasn’t going to leave it just for anything because it was perfect and my family loved it there and had everything going the right way”, said Taggart. “But to be closer to your family and still have an opportunity to coach in the Power Five and still have an opportunity to win a National Championship, which is a personal goal, it was tough to overcome.”
He said that his decision came after a profound moment he had with his 16-year-old son. While sitting at home and discussing the decision with his wife, his son walked in and offered some advice to the coach and father of three.
“He said ‘Dad, You always tell me to chase my dreams and don’t let anyone get in the way of it,” Taggart said. “I don’t think it’s right for me or anyone else to stop you from chasing your dreams… I don’t want to leave, Dad, but if you’re going to chase your dream, then I’m going to ride with you.”
Coach Taggart had just lost his father this past summer, and he said that listening to his son talk to him was like “my father talking to me.”
Taggart won’t coach the ‘Noles in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27. His first official game with FSU will be Sep. 3, 2018 against Virginia Tech at home.
Taggart comes here with a history of turning programs around. Seminole fans might remember him mostly for his stint with the University of South Florida. In 2013, he took a team that went 3-9 the previous year and went 2-10 in his first season. From there, the team improved on their wins with each season, going 4-8, 8-5, and 11-2 respectively from 2014-2016. In his final two seasons, he brought them to a bowl, although he had already resigned before the 2016 bowl game in which they beat South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.
At Western Kentucky, he took over a team that was winless in the season before he got there, and improved the team to 2-10, 7-5, and 7-6 in his three years there. They were bowl eligible in his final two years, and got invited to the Little Caesar’s Bowl in his final season.
Oregon was 7-5 in his one season with them.
The Bradenton, Fla. native will likely offer a solid recruiting pipeline in the central Florida area. The 2018 recruiting class for FSU is already hurting. Between the time that former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was fired from A&M and the time Taggart was hired, FSU had lost seven recruits, and slid from having the No. 11 recruiting class to No. 40, according to Rivals.com.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love you all too and love being here, but there’s a lot of work to be done, and we’ve got to make sure we do that,” Taggart said in regards to recruiting.
He attended the FSU men’s basketball game last night to address the crowd, saying he wants to “lead FSU back to its winning ways.”
After the game, he went to four-star linebacker recruit Amari Gainer’s home to speak with him. Gainer reiterated his committment to FSU posting a picture with coach on Twitter with the caption “1000% #Tribe18.”
Taggart is also the first full-time black head coach for FSU. FSU is the only Power Five school to have a black Athletic Director, football coach, and basketball coach. When addressed about it, he gave credit where it was due.
“I [wasn’t] necessarily the full-time coach, because Odell [Haggins] is the first African American coach here,” Taggart said.
He was referring to FSU defensive line coach Odell Haggins, who took over the head coaching job in an interim role for the last regular season game. Haggins was the first ever black head football coach in FSU history in either an interim or full-time role. Haggins will also be acting head coach for the Seminoles when they play Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.