Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Why Oregon's hire of Willie Taggart makes the USF football job even more attractive

Willie Taggart is leaving USF. Oregon bound.

Guess he's not moving into that house he was building.

Before you know it, Taggart will be telling everyone out there, "Let Coach T. drive this bus," as he said the day he was introduced at USF.

Or maybe it'll be a logging truck.

USF football is in a better place today because of Taggart.

It's in a better place because Oregon hired him, too.

Strange, but true,

USF has never looked stronger.

Coaches will be crawling over each other to get the USF job. Charlie Strong. Lane Kiffin. Greg Schiano. No particular order there. And a lot of others. USF is suddenly a hot spot.

Plus you get Tony Dungy as your agent!

Two former NFL coaches want this job.

A guy who worked for mighty Texas wants this job.

At the moment, perception is reality.

"There will not be a lack of folks very interested," USF athletic director Mark Harlan said. "I'm excited about the response already. ... We have ourselves a fantastic opportunity for the next leader."

And all it took was Willie leaving.

The prevailing USF logic should be: Our program is so good the old guy was just hired by Oregon.

Maybe Tony Dungy and Jim Harbaugh did USF a solid for helping get Willie to Eugene.

Oregon just made USF a more attractive job.

A few days ago, USF was just another American Athletic Conference team with a good record that couldn't get into the Big 12. Now it's a team that's so good that its head guy just got picked up by one of the top programs in the country.

It's like USF senior Chris McClutchy said outside the Marshall Student Center on the USF campus Wednesday morning.

"I hate to see him leave," Harwell said. "But he's going to Oregon, to a Power 5. That's a sign of success for us."

"Our coaches don't get bigger jobs," USF senior Carlo Perello said. "They get fired."

USF coaches don't jump. They get pushed.

Not Willie.

He never took home a conference title at USF, but he just won gold in the springboard competition.

"In the 20 years of the program, this hasn't happened, right?" Harlan said. "We haven't had somebody who left that way. It's a new thing for our university and our fan base, but one would argue it's another step in the maturation process."

And now an ode to Willie: His story here was one of the great comebacks. Taggart began his career at USF with an atrocious loss to McNeese State. He had one foot in the grave at USF early last season. Then it all changed. He became master builder of an eye popping offense. USF has won 17 of its last 21 games, produced a school record 10-win season and a national ranking.

And now Taggart is gone.

Can't blame him. There are maybe 10 or 15 jobs in the country where you can legitimately win a national championship if Alabama doesn't. Oregon is one of those places. USF is not.

But USF looks better than it did before Taggart arrived.

Taggart made USF a place of possibilities.

Look at that line of coaches that will stretch out USF's door.

Harlan can have his pick.

Has Les Miles phoned in? Knute Rockne was reportedly interested, but took himself out of the running because he is not alive.

USF looks better because of the job Taggart did — and Taggart's upward mobility.

Coaches are realizing that Group of 5 jobs, AAC jobs, are the ticket back to the Power 5. Houston coach Tom Herman to Texas. Memphis coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech. Temple coach Matt Rhule to Baylor. And now Taggart to Oregon.

True, I don't know how long he'll last there if he loses there.

And I don't know how long the next USF coach lasts if he wins here.

USF might not be a final destination. Is there such a thing anymore? Does anyone stay anywhere?

Hey, our guy is going to Oregon!

That will have to be solace enough for USF. That and those coaches clamoring to be hired. And the job Willie Taggart did. He lifted this program while he was here. He lifts it even as he leaves.

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