TAMPA — USF athletic director Doug Woolard was in New York on Monday for a meeting of the Big East's football athletic directors, and while his preferences for a new football coach remain shrouded in secrecy, many top candidates — including Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart — are also in Manhattan for tonight's National Football Foundation Awards Dinner.
The NFF event at the Waldorf-Astoria is an annual hub for coaching-search interviews, and the 36-year-old Taggart is a Palmetto native who played and coached against the Bulls and has helped coach WKU to both a I-AA national title in 2002 and the school's first bowl this year. Taggart may represent the best intersection of upside, interest, affordability and local ties out of a long list of coaches linked to USF's opening.
"I don't know who South Florida's AD is truly interested in; but goodness I've heard of a lot of coaches that want that job," read a tweet from Footballscoop.com, a site that specializes in coaching search news, later adding that "a lot of quality coaches" had expressed interest.
A familiar name for Bulls fans that resurfaced Monday: Calvin Magee, 49, the former Bucs tight end and USF assistant from 1996-2000, who has helped Rich Rodriguez with prolific offenses at West Virginia, Michigan and now Arizona. The USF graduate interviewed for the job when Skip Holtz was hired and has been contacted again, with a strong interest in returning to Tampa. He has worked with quarterbacks such as West Virginia's Pat White and Michigan's Denard Robinson, and his Arizona offense averaged 521 yards this season while piling up 58 touchdowns.
The Bulls have also had initial contact with former Marshall coach and USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who left the Bulls after last season to take the same job at Texas A&M. Two other former Bulls assistants — North Texas coach Dan McCarney and his offensive coordinator, Mike Canales — are also interested in returning to Tampa.
Woolard, who is not commenting on the coaching search, announced Sunday the firing of Holtz after three seasons and a 5-16 record in Big East play. This year's team lost nine of its final 10 teams for a 3-9 record, the worst in the Bulls' 16 seasons. Holtz will be paid $500,000 in each of the five seasons remaining on a contract extension Woolard gave him in June.
The initial names floated by media outlets for USF's opening run the gamut from out-of-work veteran coaches (ex-Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, ex-Florida coach Ron Zook) to smaller conference head coaches (Florida International's Mario Cristobal, Middle Tennessee's Rick Stockstill) and up-and-coming assistants from top programs (Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris).