Oregon has found their head coach, and he comes from a familiar breeding ground for recent hires.
The Ducks didn’t wait for former sideline pinball wizard Chip Kelly, instead, the organization hired University of South Florida’s Willie Taggart as Mark Helfrich’s replacement.
USF’s Willie Taggart will be named Oregon’s coach, a source told @ESPN
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 7, 2016
The 40-year-old is coming off a 10-2 season with the Bulls, compiling a 7-1 record against the rest of the American Athletic Conference. He previously worked his way up the coaching ranks in Western Kentucky and Stanford, before taking a job at Western Kentucky, where he coached three seasons before joining USF. Taggart wasn’t the sexiest name available, but, he was a rising coach from the AAC. He does come high-regarded, as Tony Dungy, Jim Harbaugh and Oliver Luck recommended Taggart from the job.
Taggart’s hire shows an interesting trend in college football. AAC coaches are being poached like never before by bigger programs. Tom Herman departed Houston to join the Longhorns on a five-year deal. Former Temple coach Matt Rhule was picked up by Baylor University to possibly guide the team back to some shred of respectability. Even last year, former Memphis coach Justin Fuente joined Virginia Tech after back-to-back solid seasons with the Tigers.
The AAC has lost multiple quality head coaches at the expense of other conferences. It’s inevitable, considering how many programs are looking for new leaders on the sideline. But now more than ever, the AAC has become the place to grab new blood. Teams within the conference should take the poaching as a compliment, even if it weakens their programs.
There’s no telling whether Taggart can turn around a Ducks team, which suddenly bottomed out after three winning seasons under Helfrich. But, he comes strongly recommended after proving himself in the AAC. Let’s see if he can follow in Fuente’s footsteps and make the leap to a bigger program on a larger stage.