TALLAHASSEE — As USF's search for a coach entered its fourth day Wednesday, president Judy Genshaft made her first comments about the process, answering questions at a news conference on 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.
"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.
The coach generating much of the buzz, Western Kentucky's Willie Taggart, returned to his campus Wednesday after two days in Manhattan, where multiple reports had him interviewing Tuesday with USF athletic director Doug Woolard. Taggart declined to comment, saying his focus is on his alma mater's game Dec. 26, 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 if he had 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 the Division I-A season record of 3,250 all-purpose yards.
Taggart continues to draw public endorsements for the job. The NFL's 49ers got enough media requests for comments from Taggart's close friend, coach Jim Harbaugh, that they issued a statement: "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 Western Kentucky, hired him as running backs coach at Stanford and was the best man at his wedding.
There also was news Wednesday involving two coaches mentioned as candidates for USF.
Florida International fired Mario Cristobal, who went 3-9 just a year after nearly landing the coaching job at Rutgers. Multiple reports Wednesday named Bucs special assistant Butch Davis as the leading candidate for FIU's job. Davis is close with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, who worked with him at Miami from 1995-2000.
Bucs coach Greg Schiano wouldn't address Davis' situation but acknowledged having coaches linked to openings comes with the territory.
"If you hire good coaches, other people are going to come and try to take your coaches," he said. "That's a compliment. In all my time at Rutgers, we lost a lot of coaches to other programs. Everyone would get mad, and I'd say, '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 after an initial conversation with the Bulls, he had not heard back to schedule an interview.
In addition, Eddie Gran, Florida State's special teams coordinator and running backs coach, was mentioned by cbssports.com's Bruce Feldman.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.