Oregon Ducks fans are eagerly, and in many cases frustratingly, waiting for Ducks coach Willie Taggart to announce his intentions.
They want answers and they want them now. Unfortunately for them, they want answers to questions that don't yet exist while Taggart is taking a stance that is best for him from a business standpoint. And let's not forget that college football is a business.
That said, here is the latest: According to a source close to the situation, Florida State has not contacted Taggart or his agent Jimmy Sexton at all, let alone to extend a contract offer to replace Jimbo Fisher, who on Friday left FSU to become the coach at Texas A&M.
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The source also stated that Taggart has rejected inquiries from two other programs. One program, the source stated, offered Taggart a contract larger than the extension of five-years, $18 million that Oregon preemptively placed before him last week. The second, and more prominent, program, according to the source, reached out to Taggart and his agent in order to gauge the coach's interest but was flatly turned down before an offer was made.
Meanwhile, Taggart remains largely mum on the subject of his future. Taggart met with the media this afternoon to discuss the team being selected to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16 against Boise State (10-3). Of course, Taggart was asked if he would still be around to coach in the bowl game.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Taggart responded, once again not saying "yes" or "no" to a direct question about his future.
When pressed regarding the rumors involving Florida State's reported interest in him and making a decision, Taggart responded: "There's no decision to be made."
That's because, it appears, there has been no offer from FSU to weigh.
Taggart, during the press conference, detailed the team's plan to prepare for the game with this week being finals week, and stated that following tonight's team banquet he would board a plane to head out to recruit.
It is understandable that Oregon fans would be frustrated by the situation. Florida State, a more prestigious program than Oregon, is Taggart's dream job. He grew up in Palmetto, Fla., a Seminoles fan. During a trip to his hometown to film the TAGGART documentary for NBC Sports Northwest, our crew went with him to his friend's barbershop. There, he engaged in a debate about the prominence of FSU, Florida and Miami. Taggart stood squarely in FSU's corner.
So, Ducks that want to see Taggart remain at UO should be afraid he could leave for the sunshine state should FSU pursue him. However, to expect Taggart to respond to every "report" and rumor about his situation is foolhardy.
There have also been "reports" that Taggart was spotted on FSU's campus on Saturday. However, given that Taggart attended his son's high school basketball game Friday night in Eugene, he would have needed to use the Millennium Falcon (the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs) in order to make it to Tallahassee, Fla., and back to Eugene in time to conduct Saturday morning's practice, which he was present for.
Taggart tweeted the following Saturday evening:
The response to this tweet was stunning. Some made it out to be a sign that he is committed to Oregon. Others pointed out that while at South Florida, Taggart tweeted something similar days before Oregon hired him. Others have stated that he shouldn't have tweeted his statements at all because they only created more speculation.
"I can't even tweet anymore without it being [interpreted] as [meaning] something else," Taggart said today.
The bottom line is that his tweet was 100 percent the truth. As of Saturday night Taggart had a practice on Sunday, the team found out today what bowl game it would play in, and Taggart will get on a plane Sunday evening to head out to do some recruiting.
That's all he said and that's all he meant. It's a tweet that would be expected from him as the coach of the Oregon Ducks. Just because there are rumors that he might be offered another job do not mean that he should suddenly stop operating as the coach of the Ducks.
For this perspective, Taggart is handling this situation the best way he can to keep the door open for a potential offer from FSU while maximizing his potential leverage with Oregon. Let's review the various aspects of the situation at hand:
1. Taggart can't determine his future without knowing what options exist:
Frustrated Oregon fans want Taggart to flatly state that he isn't leaving Oregon if that's the case. But by doing so he would only be responding to reports or comments from unnamed sources and those supposedly in the know. He shouldn't be required to do so, especially if he has no offer from FSU to even consider. He is better off avoiding the question altogether. If he says he isn't leaving Oregon now but receives an offer later that he ends up accepting, then he would be branded a liar. He certainly can't state that he is leaving without an offer in hand. And he'd be crazy to even state that he would consider an offer from FSU, again, simply because it is rumored that he might receive one.
2. Taggart is looking out for Taggart, and rightfully so: Taggart is a one-man corporation. His top responsibilities are to that corporation and his family. Oregon is a business partner, one that could fire him at any second, just like it did the previous staff. Don't think for a minute that coaches don't pay attention to how programs have treated their former staffs. Taggart has never been to a national title game or won a conference title like the previous staff did. He saw how Oregon blew out that staff after one losing season just two years removed from a national title run. So he knows that if he doesn't perform at a very high level, he could easily get fired in the not-to-distant future. That is not a "family" relationship. That is a business relationship, one that Taggart is looking to squeeze for as much as he can while he can.
2. Taggart is controlling his potential leverage: Someone asked Taggart on Friday if he would sign the extension Oregon offered last week. Taggart said that he would when everything was right with the offer. Even if Taggart has zero interest in leaving Oregon right now, it is in his best interest to at least field other offers in order to leverage Oregon into a larger contract offer. The current extension came after he received an offer from another program. Stating that he won't leave under any circumstances would shift the leverage back to Oregon, which has to be desperate to keep him given the promise he has shown and that he is an established elite recruiter. Right now, Taggart is open for business and is willing to field other offers and then weigh them against a potential counteroffer from Oregon.
4. The Scott Frost factor:
Don't think for a minute that Taggart and his agent didn't take note of the reported seven-year, $35 million contract offer Nebraska just extended to Frost, who has been a head coach for two seasons. Granted, Frost did a great job rebuilding Central Florida in just two years and has the Knights at 13-0. But Taggart has rebuilt two programs, defeated Frost last year while at South Florida, just had a strong first season at a Power Five program and is about to pull in a top-five recruiting class. Keep in mind that Taggart received most of the commitments in the 2018 class before this season began and with the Ducks coming off of a 4-8 season under the previous staff. That's an amazing recruiting job, one never before seen in the state of Oregon, maybe even the Northwest.
Yet, Taggart has an $18 million offer in hand while Frost just received $35 million. Something is wrong with that picture.
If FSU comes calling for Taggart, the Ducks might have to raise their offer to more like $25 million over five years.
5. Taggart doesn't owe Oregon a discount: This will all end when either FSU hires a coach not named Taggart or he receives on offer from Florida State. If an offer comes his way, Taggart's agent would be able to go back to Oregon with a number and see if the Ducks would be willing to pay enough to keep him from leaving. It is quite possible that Taggart has plenty of reasons not to go to FSU. He has a good thing going at Oregon. He is athletic director Rob Mullen's handpicked guy, so Taggart knows that the man in charge has a vested interest in his success and likely has his back. There is also the Phil Knight factor. Plus, if Taggart could consistently land top 10 recruiting classes then it might not matter where he is coaching in terms of pursuing a national title, thus negating the idea that one would come quicker at FSU. One source close to Taggart said that he didn't believe Taggart would leave UO simply for the sake of going to Florida State, 6-6 this season, even though his family, including his mother, still reside there. Other factors would be considered, including the overall atmosphere and support he Florida State offered. It is not a slam dunk that Taggart would jump at any offer from FSU.
In conclusion: Relax, people. Let this all play out. The process is going to take days, not weeks. But these are days in which Taggart is better served taking his time to weigh his options rather than make a rash decision in order to appease fans whose angst has been fueled by a rumor mill run amok.