There are two ways to address the media when a rumor surfaces.
One, you can address it head on and be transparent.
Or two, answer the question with another question and not give a definite answer making things seem even more suspicious.
This is the contrasting difference between former Oregon football head coach Willie Taggart and his successor Mario Cristobal.
Let’s paint you the picture.
After the Oregon Ducks posted a 7-5 record and preparing for a bowl game (would end up facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl), on the other side of the country, the Florida State Seminoles were looking to replace Jimbo Fisher who left the program for the Texas A&M head coaching vacancy.
Taggart, who came to Oregon after turning the South Florida football program around, was born in Bradenton, Florida and at the time of Fisher’s departure, was rumored to be a candidate for the Seminoles head coach job.
Here’s how he addressed the media when those rumors surfaced.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” “Ask whoever started the rumors!” Those are not good enough answers. Taggart changes the subject to talking about one of his players after being asked directly about him retweeting something on Twitter. Not telling the full truth is still lying. Yes, we understand that Taggart wanted to talk about his team and prepping for a bowl game. But he also had a track record of leaving a season early, not coaching in a bowl game, and departing for his next head coach job.
These questions were valid.
Taggart ended up bolting for his “dream job” at Florida State four days later on December 5, 2017 and not coaching Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Then came the good news.
After a petition created and signed by the players themselves, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was named the 34th head coach of the Oregon Football program.
Three years later, the Ducks have posted a 12-win season, a Pac-12 Championship, a Redbox Bowl and Rose Bowl victory as well as have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.
All that success, however, has led to Cristobal being a desirable head coach in college football and there is now a head coach vacancy at Auburn.
Auburn fired Gus Malzahn Sunday morning after a 6-4 record in his eighth season as Tigers head coach. Cristobal is one of the rumored targets as a former Nick Saban assistant coach.
On Monday, Cristobal addressed those rumors. Listen to the differences in how Cristobal handles these rumors compared to how Taggart did:
Respect for himself and respect for the media. Cristobal has always been transparent when we have questions. Even when he doesn’t want to answer them, he will directly say that and leave it at that.
A contrasting difference between the two head coaches.
Before the global pandemic hit, Cristobal and the Ducks were in talks about a contract extension. Those talks have reportedly recently begun again.
Cristobal has shown his trust and faith in the Oregon football program. We’ll soon know if the Ducks have that same trust in him and intend to not have him be the 11th lowest paid coach in the Pac-12 conference.