TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Willie Taggart grew up a Florida State fan and dreamed of playing for the Seminoles. He never donned the garnet and gold as a player, but he has managed to one-up that goal.
Taggart was introduced as the 11th head coach in Florida State history Wednesday, returning to the state after one season at Oregon. The 41-year old Bradenton, Florida, native coached at South Florida from 2013 to 2016 before taking the Ducks job.
The news conference capped a hectic two weeks at Florida State that included Jimbo Fisher resigning last Friday to accept the opening at Texas A&M.
“Guess I wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship to play here,” quipped Taggart, who played and later coached at Western Kentucky. “No matter where I went, I rooted for the Seminoles. Until I went to South Florida. That was the first time I had to root against the Seminoles.
“People say blood is thicker than water. Not in my household. We’re playing the Seminoles, and my brother, die-hard ’Nole fan, was talking about the game and said, ‘I’m sorry, bro, I love you. But I can’t go against my ’Noles.’ That’s just how it was.”
It was an emotional news conference for Taggart, who fought back tears when he talked about returning home and cheering for FSU stars Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward and Derrick Brooks when he was growing up.
Three days after Fisher resigned, Taggart met with Florida State president John Thrasher, athletic director Stan Wilcox and board of trustees member Ed Burr on Monday in Scottsdale, Arizona. After weighing the offer overnight, Taggart accepted on Tuesday and informed his players at Oregon.
Taggart said he appreciated Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens for giving him his first chance at a Power Five job, but he added that the chance to coach at the school he has followed since childhood was too good to pass up.
“I know I let him down, and I’m sorry. The timing was probably not right, but it is never right,” Taggart said. “This one chance was perfect. To be closer to family and coach in a Power Five and an opportunity to win a national championship are personal goals.”
Taggart will earn $30 million over six years. Florida State will also pay the remaining $1.37 million he still owes South Florida and the $3 million owed to Oregon as part of buyouts of his previous contracts.
Taggart has a 47-50 career record, including 7-5 at Oregon this season. He has a reputation of rebuilding Western Kentucky, USF and Oregon, but he views coming to Florida State as more of a realignment effort.