Willie Taggart’s sudden departure from Oregon to become Florida State University’s head football coach this week brought mixed reaction from one corner of the country to the other.
In Florida, Seminoles fans rejoiced at Taggart’s hiring, especially with the poise he showed during Wednesday’s introductory press conference in Tallahassee.
In Oregon, Ducks fans were miffed at Taggart’s decision to return to the Sunshine State after one year.
Recruits voiced their displeasure via social media.
But locally, Manatee County high school coaches echoed what FSU fans felt with Taggart’s hiring: It’s his dream job.
And that was the reasoning Taggart gave in Wednesday’s press conference, ultimately going with the advice his 16-year old son, Willie Jr., gave him as he wrestled with the difficult choice about chasing his dream.
Prior to Taggart’s coaching career, he led Manatee High to a state championship in 1992 as the Hurricanes’ quarterback. And he did it following legend Tommie Frazier, who didn’t capture a state title in his Manatee career.
“He’s a born leader,” Manatee High head coach Yusuf Shakir said.
Shakir said Taggart recruited players he had at Tallahassee Lincoln when Taggart was an assistant at Stanford. That continued with Taggart’s recruitment of additional players Shakir had when Taggart went to Western Kentucky and South Florida.
Palmetto head coach Dave Marino coached against Taggart when the former was an assistant at Southeast and the latter was quarterbacking Manatee.
“He grew up looking up to Pat McNeil and Tracy Sanders, these guys had already paved the way from Manatee to Florida State,” Marino said.
During Taggart’s stint at Western Kentucky, there was a huge influx of Florida talent, specifically from the 941 area cade through Taggart and former Palmetto head coach Raymond Woodie’s recruiting.
“That is where it starts,” said Joe Kinnan, who coached Taggart at Manatee and helped him install the Gulf Coast Offense during Taggart’s USF tenure. “Being able to communicate with the young football players and let them see your vision. And get them to be a part of your program.”
Added Shakir: “He’s genuine and honest. Willie’s going to be who he is. Willie doesn’t try to be anybody that he’s not. He doesn’t try to be fake or throw any kind of facade. He is who is. On top of that, he’s already a great person.”
While high school coaches in Manatee County and FSU fans throughout the country embraced Taggart’s hiring, some attached to Oregon’s program were upset.
Troy Dye, the Ducks’ leading tackler, has a younger brother that is an Oregon commit and tweeted that Taggart, “lied straight to my dad’s face in my living room Thursday night. He didn’t keep his word to me Monday. Lost all my respect.”
Oregon committed lineman Christopher Randazzo also tweeted: “A day before my visit and he still came into my house preaching Oregon ... leaves a bad taste.”
Other current Oregon players took to social media to thank Taggart on Tuesday. During Wednesday’s press conference, Taggart apologized to the Oregon brass for leaving after one year.
Shakir, Marino, Kinnan and Bayshore High head coach John Biezuns, who has never met Taggart, said you can’t fault him for leaving for his dream job.
“If your dream job comes open, that doesn’t happen every day,” Biezuns said.
One aspect, though, that Biezuns said the NCAA must look at is allowing players to transfer without a penalty since a head coach can pick up and leave without any penalty.
“I know that opens a whole other ball of wax, but if a kid trusts a guy for those years and Taggart has to make a financial decision for what’s best for him and coming back to the state of Florida makes sense for him, but he has these kids that are committed to him,” Biezuns said, “They should be able to transfer with no penalty. That’s my opinion.”