USF search 'amazing,' but Taggart keeping quiet
Here's our search update for Thursday's paper, with help from Times writers Tia Mitchell and Joe Smith. ...
TALLAHASSEE -- As USF's search for a new football coach entered its fourth day Wednesday, Bulls president Judy Genshaft made her first comments about the hiring process, answering questions from reporters at a news conference on university funding.
"We are receiving a lot of names. We are very, very encouraged by the number of people that are interested in the position, and I'm going to wait to hear from our athletic director about narrowing down the huge numbers that we've gotten," she said. "So it's very encouraging. ... We don’t know who our coach is going to be, but we have a great future. The search is amazing. People have been calling and giving us names of those who are very, very interested. Really, really high level people and we’re very optimistic.”
The coach generating much of the buzz in that search, Western Kentucky's Willie Taggart, returned to campus Wednesday after two days in Manhattan, where multiple online reports had him interviewing Tuesday with USF athletic director Doug Woolard. Taggart was asked about the speculation about him leaving his alma mater, but he declined to comment, saying his focus is firmly on the Hilltoppers' first-ever bowl game on Dec. 26 in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
"I don't talk about any other job but the one I have, and the one I have is WKU," he said.
Asked specifically about whether he'd been contacted by other schools, Taggart said "Antonio Andrews has a chance to break Barry Sanders' record, and aren't we all excited?" referencing his running back's chance to break Sanders' I-A record of 3,250 all-purpose yards in a season. Andrews has 2,977 yards, including 1,609 rushing, and needs 274 in the bowl game to set the mark.
Taggart continues to draw public endorsements for the job -- the San Francisco 49ers got enough media requests for comments from Taggart's close friend, coach Jim Harbaugh, that they issued a statement about Taggart: "Any football program would be very lucky to have Willie Taggart as their head coach."
Harbaugh recruited Taggart to play for his father Jack at WKU, then hired him as his running backs coach at Stanford, and was best man in Taggart's wedding.
There was news Wednesday involving two coaches mentioned as potential candidates for USF's opening -- Florida International announced the surprise firing of coach Mario Cristobal, who went 3-9 just a year after nearly landing the head coaching job at Rutgers. As a result of that move, multiple reports Wednesday named Bucs special assistant Butch Davis as the leading candidate for FIU's job. Davis, who has experience in college both at Miami and North Carolina, is apparently close with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, who worked with him at Miami from 1995 to 2000.
Bucs coach Greg Schiano wouldn’t address Davis’situation specifically, but acknowledged that having coaches linked to other openings comes with the territory.
“If you hire good coaches, other people are going to come and try to take your coaches,” Schiano said. “That’s a compliment. And in all my time at Rutgers we lost a lot of coaches to other programs, and everyone would get mad and I’d say, 'Hey guys, that means we’re hiring the right coaches.’ When no one wants to hire your guys, then you hired the wrong coaches.”
Former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said Wednesday that while he had an initial conversation with the Bulls, he had not heard back after anything to schedule an interview. Another name floated nationally Wednesday was Florida State assistant Eddie Gran, whose name was mentioned by CBSsports.com's' Bruce Feldman.