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Why a Willie Taggart-USF reunion might (and might not) make sense

We know there is at least some interest between the Bulls and their former coach. While we await clarity, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
The University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart  gives the bulls sign while leading his football team towards the entrance of Raymond James Stadium in preparation to take on Western Carolina University in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, August 30, 2014.  [JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
OCTAVIO JONES | Times The University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart gives the bulls sign while leading his football team towards the entrance of Raymond James Stadium in preparation to take on Western Carolina University in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, August 30, 2014. [JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 5, 2019
Updated Dec. 5, 2019

USF and former Bulls coach Willie Taggart have at least some mutual interest in a reunion. How much interest and how mutual it is remain to be seen.

As we await clarity on the future of Taggart and USF, let’s look at why a second act might (and might not) work out for both parties:

Why it might make sense

What are the odds Willie Taggart has another introductory news conference with USF?

He has done it before: Taggart led the Bulls to their best season ever, a top-20 run in 2016 when they went 11-2 (including a bowl win after Taggart left for Oregon). That isn’t ancient history, like Greg Schiano rejoining Rutgers. USF hasn’t changed that much since Taggart left, which suggests he might be able to pick up where he left off. Giving all of his success to Quinton Flowers is unfair revisionist history; Taggart recruited Flowers, let him play quarterback and rebuilt his offense to utilize his unique strengths. And it worked better than anything USF has ever done.

He checks the right boxes: USF’s next coach needs to be an energetic salesman, preferably with local ties, who can recruit from Tampa Bay out. That’s Taggart. In his final game as Bulls coach, a 48-31 romp of UCF in 2016, 10 Bulls starters hailed from a Hillsborough or Pinellas County high school. The fact that he has a history of exciting offenses that uses the state’s plentiful amount of speed helps, too.

MORE BULLS: Coaches uninterested in community engagement need not apply for USF football job

He knows the landscape: With an off-campus stadium, obvious facilities needs and a location inside a major metro, USF is a unique job. Taggart knows all of this because he has lived it. He won’t need any time to reacquaint himself, so he can start fixing USF’s big-picture issues almost immediately.

He might be cheap: Taggart’s Florida State buyout is about $18 million, although that could be subject to negotiation and an offset at his next job. If he’s still getting paid not to coach the Seminoles, perhaps his asking price is lower than some other candidates. In that case, the savings could go to a bigger salary pool for his assistants or to USF’s much-needed infrastructure upgrades.

RELATED: USF football coaching search: Time for some Bulls bracketology

Why it might not make sense

Florida State coach Willie Taggart is seen on the sidelines during the first quarter against Virginia Tech at Doak Campbell Stadium Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 in Tallahassee. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Taggart failed at FSU: Taggart’s Seminoles were poorly coached. They collapsed too often in the second half because of conditioning, tactical adjustments or both. They were undisciplined. Add in his time at Oregon, and a Taggart team has led the nation in penalties per game for three consecutive years. His Tallahassee tenure will make him a harder sell in Tampa.

RELATED: The three beginnings that led to Willie Taggart’s end at FSU

Sequels don’t often work: Randy Edsall led UConn to historic heights (by Huskies standards) and has bombed in Round 2. Bill Snyder faded in his Act II at Kansas State. Bobby Petrino flamed out in his second go-round at Louisville. Not every retread fails, but the recent track record suggests a Taggart sequel probably won’t go as well as the original did.

RELATED: Greg Schiano is going back to Rutgers. How do retreads fare in Act II?

The AAC has risen: USF clearly has regressed since Taggart left, even as its conference collectively has gotten better. In Taggart’s final USF season, the AAC had five top-50 teams (including the Bulls), according to S&P+ advanced metrics. This year, the league has seven, including two in the top 15. If Taggart’s shortcomings were exposed at FSU, they could be exposed in an improved AAC, too.

Taggart caught lightning in a bottle the last time: In his previous stint, Taggart was surrounded by some incredibly bright football minds (Joe Kinnan, Danny Hope, Dick Tomey, Tom Allen). In fact, the Gulf Coast Offense as Bulls fans know it didn’t really click until Kinnan and Hope came aboard. Neither are likely to join Taggart this time around. Flowers isn’t coming back, either. So what are the odds Taggart rekindles that success with new faces around him?


  1. Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is on the opening-day 52-man roster for the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Plant High’s Aaron Murray and Wharton High’s Chase Litton join USF’s career total yardage leader in the quarterback room.
  2. USF coach Brian Gregory's team (8-11, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) is on a four-game skid entering Sunday afternoon's contest at No. 25 Houston. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    In a conference teeming with parity, the notion of USF reaching the NCAA Tournament isn’t far-fetched.
  3. New USF offensive coordinator Glenn Spencer addresses players during the Bulls' first team meeting of 2020. [Joey Knight]
    The coaches each get a $10,000 bonus for a regular-season win against UCF.
  4. Jeff Scott takes over at USF in his first head coaching stint and if he instills a bit of Clemson swagger and culture, who's to argue with what works. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TImes]
    The Bulls’ new football coach is installing the cornerstones of the ultra-successful national championship program in Tampa.
  5. New USF football coach Jeff Scott, right, talks to members of the football team during a meeting at USF last week. Since then, Scott and his staff  have remained on the recruiting trail, landing six new non-binding commitments. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    New coach Jeff Scott has received six new commitments since Sunday.
  6. USF Bulls guard Laquincy Rideau (3) shoots a 3-pointer over Wichita State Shockers guard Dexter Dennis (0) during the first half at the Yuengling Center. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The Bulls shoot 30 percent from the floor in a 56-43 defeat at the Yuengling Center.
  7. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall's club was ranked as high as 16th in the Associated Press poll earlier this month before losing two in a row last week. [MICHAEL PEREZ  |  AP]
    Both teams will try to break out of skids in tonight’s ‘Coaches vs. Cancer’ game at the Yuengling Center.
  8. Chamberlain offensive tackle Cesar Reyes said via Twitter on Sunday he plans to sign with USF. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Bulls fortify depth at quarterback and on the offensive line.
  9. USF sophomore Elisa Pinzan had seven 3-pointers Sunday in the Bulls' 64-57 loss to UCF at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times] [Joey Knight]
    The Knights sweep a weekend of basketball against the Bulls.
  10. USF senior point guard Laquincy Rideau (3) drives in the first half of his team's 55-54 loss Saturday at UCF. [Photo provided by UCF Athletics] [UCF Athletics]
    The Bulls coach doesn’t hold back following his team’s controversial 55-54 loss in Orlando