TAMPA -- Willie Taggart ends a lot of conversations by saying have a good day -- if you want to.
Now the University of South Florida head football coach has put together two good days, thanks to his eternal optimism.
Taggart agreed in principle to a raise and a five-year contract extension Saturday that will include more money for his assistant coaches.
"Excited for another great five years with my guy (Taggart)," USF athletic director Mark Harlan tweeted. "Now we need all Bulls Nation to join in."
Never miss a local story.
Not long after, Taggart tweeted, "Stay true to the people who believe in you, 5 more years. Go Bulls!!"
A few months ago, Willie Taggart was on the proverbial hot seat. Now, the former Manatee High quarterback great and All-American at Western Kentucky is arguably one of the hottest commodities in college football.
Taggart started the season at 1-3 amid discontent from fans. But he stayed true to his plan, and the Bulls responded by winning seven of their final eight games -- a loss to Navy the only blemish.
USF qualified for its first bowl game since 2010 and is expected to accept an invitation to the Miami Beach Bowl on Sunday, where the Bulls would face Western Kentucky, the school where Taggart began his college coaching career.
The game is scheduled for Dec. 21 at Marlins Stadium in Miami. The Hilltoppers (11-2) won the Conference USA championship by defeating Southern Mississippi earlier Saturday.
Taggart interviewed for the South Carolina job Friday and speculation grew the school was going to have give him a significant raise and extend his contract if USF wanted to keep him.
Harlan, hired after Taggart was already on the job, has been a staunch supporter of the coach and made it clear he would do what it takes to keep the 39-year-old.
Taggart, the only major college head football coach from Manatee County, has added quite a bit of local flavor from his hometown. Ray Woodie, former player and head coach at Palmetto, was hired as USF assistant head coach, linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. Manatee High Hall-of-Fame coach Joe Kinnan joined Taggart's staff this year as a consultant, and former Manatee High assistant coach Danny Hope is co-offensive coordinator for the Bulls.
Taggart is completing the third year of five-year deal that pays him $1.2 million annually. He went 2-10 his first season and 4-8 before beginning this season losing three of four.
Taggart remained positive, saying he knew this team would turn its fortune around. He never allowed the outside voices to sway him from his goals.
The Bulls won all their games in the American Athletic Conference East Division, including a pounding against division champion Temple. Its only other loss in the West Division was to Memphis, which was coached by Justin Fuente, a friend of Taggart's who just left to take over the program at Virginia Tech.
In a recent interview with the Bradenton Herald, Taggart said he never stopped believing in what he was doing and never doubted himself.
"I don't feel any redemption or relief," he said. "I knew this would work. Whenever you have a plan and go out and work really hard to get it accomplished, you appreciated it, but I never doubted it."