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Fennelly: How is USF going to keep from losing Willie Taggart?

USF stepped up last December and signed Willie Taggart to a contract extension through 2020 which will pay him roughly $1.7 million per season. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
USF stepped up last December and signed Willie Taggart to a contract extension through 2020 which will pay him roughly $1.7 million per season. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Oct. 14, 2016

The Big 12 and its 10 kooky presidents might announce Monday whether the conference is expanding or not. Barring weirdness, I'm betting on Not.

USF's Power 5 dreams might be at an end — for now.

Meanwhile, USF can become bowl eligible (in October!) with a win over UConn on Saturday night. That would be 13 wins for USF in its last 16 games. A stretch worth talking about.

But there's a bull elephant in the room. And it isn't the Big 12 — not yet, anyway.

How is USF going to keep Willie Taggart?

It's going to be hard if Taggart keeps up this winning thing.

USF could become a launch pad.

I hate to bring it up, but I'm sure it has crossed some minds at USF.

Because there are going to be jobs out there.

Power 5 jobs, and all that comes with that.

That sounds crazy after USF stepped up last December and signed Taggart to a contract extension through 2020 which will pay him roughly $1.7 million per season.

It's not crazy.

Taggart has shown no indication that he is anything but happy to be here. USF was the dream job, bringing him home, near Bradenton, where he starred for Manatee High.

It's still not crazy.

It's the way of the world.

And it underlines one of the big reasons schools like USF yearn to be part of the P5: You can keep your coaches if you want to keep them.

Taggart could become a test case.

He couldn't be hotter than he is right now. Well, OK, his Bulls could be 6-0, not 5-1. But think there aren't athletic directors out there who haven't seen the USF turnaround, who, faced with a coaching vacancy, wouldn't be smitten with USF's eye-popping offensive numbers?

More than 20 FBS schools hired new coaches last offseason. By my count, 13 of the schools were from Power 5 conferences: Georgia, Illinois, Iowa State, Maryland, Miami, Minnesota, Missouri, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech.

And think about this year. Texas could open up. LSU could open up. So could Oregon, USC, Auburn, Kentucky, Purdue. There could be others, too.

I'm not saying Taggart is going to get hired by a mega-program. I still don't entirely believe that mild flirtation he had with South Carolina before he got his new USF deal.

But it's about the dominoes falling. Someone would have to leave someplace to go to Texas, or LSU, or USC. And that's going to create an opening in that someplace.

It's the food chain, kids.

USF has done nothing wrong here. Athletic director Mark Harlan has been on the ball.

But this is how it works. It's reality.

It's also: surreal.

About a year ago, there seemed a chance, right or wrong, that he would be shown the door. The Bulls were 1-3. Now he might walk out the door. That's one amazing comeback.

Taggart has his team laser-focused on winning the school's first conference title.

But as coaches climb mountains, they see the other mountains.

And there will be jobs out there.

If USF keeps winning, how is it going to keep from losing Willie Taggart?

It's not a crazy question.

It's the way things work.