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For Willie Taggart, FSU was the right job at the wrong time

The former USF coach chased his dream to Tallahassee when he probably should’ve hit the brakes.
Willie Taggart was fired Sunday by FSU, his dream job, after winning only nine of 21 games. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
Willie Taggart was fired Sunday by FSU, his dream job, after winning only nine of 21 games. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]
Published Nov. 4, 2019
Updated Nov. 4, 2019

Betraying equal parts pride and dismay, Willie Taggart acknowledged more than once how his family ― we’re talking parents and siblings ― rooted against his USF team when it played FSU in 2015 and ’16.

In this case, blood evidently wasn’t thicker than Bowden or Brooks or Buckley.

“Growing up in my household, if you weren’t a ‘Noles fan, you probably weren’t staying in that house,” Taggart said at his FSU introductory news conference 23 months ago. “If you were living in my house, you would’ve thought everybody in that house graduated from FSU, and none of us did.”

Exactly no one dreamed of coaching the Seminoles more than Taggart. By resuscitating Western Kentucky and USF, then starting off well at his first Power Five gig (at Oregon), the state title-winning Manatee High quarterback positioned himself to fulfill that dream.

Glitch was, destiny called sooner than he expected.

And one shouldn’t always pick up destiny’s call on the first ring.

In an occupation where timing is critical, Taggart’s acceptance of the job he coveted was terribly mistimed. As a result, his dream gig regressed into a dreadful tenure.

Now, he’s persona non grata in two time zones.

MORE FSU: Florida State football fires Willie Taggart

Taggart, who signed a five-year, $16 million deal with Oregon in December 2016, outraged Ducks fans and administrators by bolting Eugene for Tallahassee after only 12 games (Just check out the Oregon-based reader comments from this story on Taggart’s firing Sunday).

Today, his dismissal at FSU is being widely celebrated among the Seminoles demographic.

During that downward spiral, perhaps a cautionary tale was woven.

When pursuing dreams, one must know when to apply the brakes.

Granted, FSU made Taggart an offer (six years, $30 million) that was virtually impossible to refuse. Those who signed off on it are far more culpable in this travesty than Taggart. But can those eight figures compensate for the shame of forever being deemed a punch line in Tallahassee?

Bobby Bowden had more than one chance to coach at Alabama (his dream school), which undoubtedly would’ve paid him handsomely to coach the Crimson Tide. He stayed put and became a legend.

Roy Williams had a chance to bolt Kansas for North Carolina (his alma mater) in 2000, but balked. When the opportunity arose three years later, he took it.

Today, he has three national title rings, and a permanent place in Tar Heels lore.

MORE FSU: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on FSU: ‘I hate the way they represent themselves’

Had Taggart refused FSU’s overtures two years ago, politely indicating he had been on the job in Eugene for only a year and the timing wasn’t right, the chance to coach the ‘Noles may never have surfaced again. In time, maybe Taggart would’ve regretted the decision.

Couldn’t be any more regrettable than his 9-12 tenure.

Sometimes, it’s prudent to make destiny wait a while.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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