EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart, speaking in general terms during an interview with CSNNW for an upcoming television special, laid out his philosophies for discipline that ultimately led him to dismiss senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr from the team following his arrest for DUII in the early morning hours of July 1.
"It's tough," Taggart said about having a player fail to meet his standards. "But you set rules. You set rules and you let them know you're going to hold them accountable."
Carrington, who on Friday pleaded not guilty to the charges while appearing in a Eugene courtroom, is seeking a place to land as a graduate transfer. His departure hurt an already thin UO receiving corps. But when Taggart took over the program last December he made it clear to the players that he expected them to conduct themselves properly on and off the field. Carrington, with his history of transgressions, had a short leash to work with given his history under the Mark Helfrich regime.
Taggart, as recently as June 30, praised Carrington's improvement in the areas of being leader, academics (he graduated in the spring) and on-field performance some 13 hours before Carrington's arrest. In addition to the DUII, Carrington was also cited for careless driving.
The news of Carrington's arrest greatly disappointed Taggart, who thought he had gotten through to the star receiver, who could use a big senior season to improve his NFL Draft stock, which has taken a beating over the years.
Taggart, who was mentored by his former coach at Western Kentucky, Jack Harbaugh, and his son, Michigan coach and former NFL quarterback and current Jim Harbaugh, said he prides himself on helping his young players become men.
"I tell parents we're going to send them back better men then they were when they got here," Taggart said.
When he fails to get through to one, Taggart feels the disappointment.
"I tell them all, 'I'm going to have your back. No matter what, I'm going to have your back! But you've got to have my back,'" Taggart said. "'And the way you have my back is by being the best football player you can be, the best student you can be and having the best character you can have.' That's all I ask."
Taggart said the response from Oregon's players to his philosophies has been positive, as they were during previous coaching stops at South Florida and Western Kentucky. In those two cases, Taggart turned around losing cultures that included some discipline problems here and there.
"In the past two jobs I've taken over, there's always someone that's going to come out and test the waters," he said. "A lot of times I don't think they necessarily try to, they are just caught up in doing things the way they've been doing them for so long that it's just hard to just change at some point. You just hope that they do."
Taggart said players must meet at least two of his three requirements in order to be on the team: Be a good student. Display high character. Be a good player.
"You can't have just one and think you're going to be on this football team," Taggart said. "If you have two then we'll work with you on the one you're struggling with and we'll try to get you up to par. I feel like if each one of these young men have those things in order they are going to be very successful in college."
Carrington became the first Ducks player to fail within the Taggart philosophy and lose his place on the team. Unfortunately, it's likely that he won't be the last.
"You set rules and you hold them accountable," Taggart said. "You don't play any favoritism. You don't sweep anything under the rug. You hold them accountable to what you say you're going to do. And that's what I do. Me, I'm going to be there for you but if you break the rules there's consequences and you're going to serve those consequences if that happens. I think all of the players know that we're going to be fair. You want them all to know that you're serious about the discipline part of it and doing things the right way."