Former FSU, USF coach Willie Taggart hired at Florida Atlantic

He moves to his fourth program in the past 36 months. Adding intrigue to the hire, FAU hosts USF in 2020.
New FAU coach Willie Taggart faces one of his old teams, USF, on Sept. 26, 2020 in Boca Raton. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
New FAU coach Willie Taggart faces one of his old teams, USF, on Sept. 26, 2020 in Boca Raton. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [ JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Dec. 11, 2019|Updated Dec. 12, 2019

Willie Taggart is heading back to South Florida to resume his coaching career after all.

Just not the South Florida he envisioned.

Taggart, who spoke with USF representatives about his old job that ultimately went to Jeff Scott, has been hired to replace Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton. Kiffin left the Owls after three seasons to become coach at Ole Miss.

MORE BULLS: New USF coach Jeff Scott makes ‘united from start to finish’ pitch

“I’m looking forward to long-term success here,” Taggart said in a statement distributed by the university Wednesday night. “I think our players and the university deserve that commitment.”

Brett McMurphy of Stadium sports network first reported Taggart’s hiring earlier in the day.

FAU will be the fourth program Taggart has coached in the past 36 months, joining USF (2013-16), Oregon (2017) and Florida State (2018-19).

USF faces the Owls in Boca Raton next season on Sept. 26.

FAU’s hiring of Taggart, 43, came 38 days after he was fired at FSU following a horrific 21-game tenure in which the Seminoles won nine and home attendance declined drastically.

Financial details of his agreement with FAU were not known, though the school said it’s a five-year deal. The contract is expected to offset at least part of the exorbitant $18 million buyout owed to Taggart by FSU, though some legal wrangling could ensue. The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Taggart never signed a final, formal contract with FSU.

Kiffin was 26-13 in three seasons at FAU, winning two Conference USA championships and breathing new life into a moribund program before leaving last week for Mississippi. His hiring in 2016 was a splashy one, after past stints as a head coach — at Tennessee and with the NFL’s Raiders — didn’t work out as he hoped.

Taggart could use a similar resume revival. He has been to one bowl game in 10 seasons as a head coach, with a 56-62 record. FSU fired him Nov. 3, one day after its 27-10 loss to Miami.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well.”

Taggart is the fourth prominent coach who was at a Power Five school this season, got fired and then found his next opportunity relatively quickly.

Chad Morris was fired at Arkansas, then hired as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Matt Luke was fired at Ole Miss, then got hired as associate head coach at Georgia. Steve Addazio, who was at Boston College, was hired Wednesday at Colorado State.

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.