Polarizing reactions to Willie Taggart's "dream job" dismissal

Polarizing reactions to Willie Taggart's "dream job" dismissal

Willie Taggart coached 21 games at Florida State before he was dismissed as head coach on Sunday. The “Do Something” slogan creator left the Oregon football program after the 2017 season to take his Florida State dream job, which left many Duck fans feeling slighted. The Ducks promoted Mario Cristobal to head coach and in his second season are ranked No. 7, with a 8-1 overall record and undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play.

Taggart’s buyout from FSU is the second largest buyout in college football history, at approximately $17 million. Charlie Weis was paid $18.9 million to leave Notre Dame. Although, the Seminoles will end up paying three buyouts that total $20 million, which include paying out the contracts with Oregon and South Florida.

Those are the facts, now these are the reactions.

GRASS ISN'T ALWAYS GREENER

NUMBERS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND

THANKS, FSU

SHOCK

Young Florida State fan uses lemonade stand to fund Willie Taggart buyout

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Young Florida State fan uses lemonade stand to fund Willie Taggart buyout

How much are you willing to spend for a glass of lemonade? 10 cents? 25 cents? a dollar? How about a 20 spot? $20, that's what a young Florida State fan was charging people for a glass. But there was a reason for the high-priced refreshment. Four-year-old Grayton Grant opened up a pop-up stand hoping that sales of his lemonade could bring in enough cash to fund the buyout of head coach Willie Taggert. Taggart is due to make $30 million this season, while Grant pulled in just $241 dollars. He may have fallen short of his goal, but that didn't stop him from putting the money to use. 

According to a story published by the Tallahassee Democrat, Daniel Grant, Grayton's father, matched his son's total and together they sent a $482 check to Florida State marked  “Taggart Buy Out!” 

That's not all. Grant also wrote a letter to the university that read “I am tired of losing football games and being made fun of at school for being a Seminole fan. At four, I am already starting to gravitate towards the color orange. You don’t want that for an innocent kid like me….” 

For those of you not in tune with college football, Orange is the school color of Florida State's biggest rival, the Florida Gators. It's also the color of the pen Grant used to sign his letter. That's a deep cut. 

Of course, the letter was all tongue-in-cheek. Nothing can really come between a fan and their favorite school, and it's what makes college sports so great.

Taggart is remembered in the Northwest as the former coach of the Oregon Ducks. Taggart spent just one year at the helm before bolting for his dream job with the Seminoles. Taggart when 7-5 in his lone season with the Ducks, and is 6-9 in his time with Florida State. 

Willie Taggart hires former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to Florida State

Willie Taggart hires former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to Florida State

Florida State is hiring former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt as a defensive analyst, reuniting with former Oregon Coach Willie Taggart. Taggart has not been shy about his disappointment in the Seminoles' defense, which has given up double-digit leads in its first two games and ranks last nationally in first downs allowed (64).

Leavitt has been out of college coaching since “mutually parting ways” with Oregon after the 2018 season. As the sixth-highest paid assistant in the nation, Leavitt was earning $1.7 million annually and under contract for two more years. He is being paid $2.5 million “over multiple years” from Oregon, which will now be subject to reduction based on employment.

All Pepsi jokes aside, Leavitt helped stabilize the Ducks’ defense in 2016, helping improve Oregon's 126th ranked defense to 46th in the nation in 2018.

Leavitt stayed behind in 2018 when Taggart took the Seminoles job, hoping to land the head-coaching position at Oregon. Mario Cristobal landed the job and the two never saw eye to eye. Oregon’s 2018 defense regressed to 55th in the nation, which wasn’t the type of production that Oregon had paid $1.7 million to receive. 

Leavitt’s role at FSU is to assist Seminoles defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to help with devising game plans. Florida State currently ranks No. 121 in scoring defense and No. 124 in total defense.

“No, I wasn’t happy with the way our defense played,” Taggart said after beating Louisiana-Monroe, 45-44 in overtime. “I don’t think anyone was happy. I don’t think our defense was happy or anyone associated with Florida State football was happy with the way our defense played. We have to play better. We have to make sure we find ways to make sure we fix the problems and make sure we put our guys in the best position to make plays.”

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman first reported Leavitt was joining FSU’s staff. Leavitt has yet to post on his ever-active Twitter page about the move.

Can you guess the most penalized team in the nation? It's not Oregon football

Can you guess the most penalized team in the nation? It's not Oregon football

Oregon’s penalty problem dramatically improved this season.

“Dramatic” might not do it justice. The Ducks cut their average penalties per game almost in half in one season under coach Mario Cristobal.

Oregon was the most penalized team in the country last season under coach Willie Taggart; averaging an atrocious 9.4 penalties for 88.3 penalty yards per game.

To begin 2018, Cristobal emphasized the cure to correcting bad habits from 2017 was a new-found sense of discipline, plus a culture of accountability and attention to detail.
It worked.

In his first year as head coach, Cristobal’s goal was lead the Pac-12 conference with the fewest penalties. He came very close to reaching that goal.

This season, the Ducks averaged 5.3 penalties per game, which ranks second in the conference for fewest penalties per game, behind Washington’s 4.9. The Ducks’ 50.7 penalty yards per game ranked fourth in the conference.

What did Cristobal do to improve discipline? The Ducks have officials at practice that join the coaching staff and players during film sessions to correct bad habits.

“You’re either teaching it or allowing it to happen,” Cristobal said. “And we allowed it (in 2017).”

From dead last in 2017, Oregon finished the 2018 season 35th among FBS teams in penalties. That’s what I call dramatic!

Can you guess what team is the most penalized in the nation this season? Taggart's Florida State Seminoles.  FSU averaged 9.2 penalties a game, a major increase from last season's 6.1 penalties per game.

REPORT: Florida's state attorney investigating racially charged social media post directed at Taggart

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REPORT: Florida's state attorney investigating racially charged social media post directed at Taggart

The state attorney of Florida is investigating the social media post allegedly made by a since suspended Hilton Garden Vacations employee that depicts a lynching of Florida State coach Willie Taggart, according to multiple reports

The post, made on a Facebook page with the name Tom Shand, shows a photo of a person hanging from a tree with a cutout of Taggart's head photoshopped over the head of the person in the original photo. The post went up following Florida State's loss on Saturday to Florida. FSU finished the season 5-7, thus ending the program's 36-year run of bowl game appearances.

Someone responded to the post by asking if Shand was serious and he responded: "I'm dead (censored) serious. This is how far I'm willing to go to get rid of this clown!!!"

This is Taggart's first year with the Seminoles after he left Oregon following one season that produced a 7-5 record under him.

The following statement from a Hilton spokesperson appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat: "Our concern regarding this situation is a top priority," said Lauren George, a spokeswoman for Hilton Grand Vacations, based in Orlando. "The team member responsible has been suspended while further action is being considered. We want to ensure all Team Members’ behavior is consistent with our values and code of conduct."

FSU President John Thrasher stated: "I speak for the entire FSU community in expressing our disgust and extreme disappointment, and I am glad the state attorney is investigating. Coach Taggart has our full support and as true Seminoles know, he is a respected member of the FSU family."

Taggart has not responded publicly to the social media post. 

The GoFundMe account you absolutely should not donate to

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The GoFundMe account you absolutely should not donate to

#DoSomething, #DidNothing, and now #FireTaggart.

The former Oregon Ducks football head coach and now Florida State Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart is off to a rough start at his "dream job" falling to a 1-2 record so far this season. Who knows what the reason is: if departed FSU coach Jimbo Fisher left Taggart in a hole or if Taggart's coaching methods are questionable, but the fans are taking the #FireTaggart campaign to Twitter and now GoFundMe. 

The reason for this GoFundMe account: "To buy Willie Taggert out of his contract so that FSU doesn't go bankrupt trying to hire a real D1 Coach." The author even spelled Taggart's name wrong.

After being dismantled by Virginia Tech in week one 24-3, a win in questionable 36-26 win week two over Samford, and a 30-7 whooping in week three at Syracuse, Taggart is on the hot seat just three games into his first season as head coach.

As of September 17th, 2018 at 11:25 AM, the account has raised $61 by eight people. The goal is to raise $21.2 million dollars.

Wille Taggart loses opener at FSU, suffers wrath of Twitter trolls

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Wille Taggart loses opener at FSU, suffers wrath of Twitter trolls

Willie Taggart left Oregon for Florida State after just one year in Eugene, and fans of Oregon weren't very happy about it. But the sour taste he left in the mouths of fans is a little sweeter after the blowout loss his Seminoles suffered at the hands of Virginia Tech last weekend. FSU is not off to the start it had hoped, Taggart is not off to the start he had hoped, but for Duck fans, they are both off to the best start imaginable. During and after the game, Twitter was on fire. The trolls came out in force and it was hilarious. Just take a look. #DoSomething, amirite?! 

https://twitter.com/duckscrootin/status/1036774826617143296 https://twitter.com/danegado/status/1036817026000408576

Rough week for coaches that passed on Oregon

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Rough week for coaches that passed on Oregon

The failures and successes of the Oregon, UCLA and Florida State football programs will be constantly compared and contrasted in the upcoming years given the connective tissue of the coaches involved.

After the first weekend of football that saw all three programs take the field, Oregon's Mario Cristobal is the only coach sitting at 1-0 following a 58-24 win over Bowling Green on Saturday at Autzen Stadium while the first outings for two coaches that chose not to work at Oregon went painfully sideways. 

Chip Kelly's UCLA Bruins lost 26-17 on Saturday at home to a Cincinnati team that went 4-8 last season. Willie Taggart's previously No. 19-ranked Florida State Seminoles looked painfully out of sorts on offense Monday night while losing 23-3 at home to No. 20 Virginia Tech in front of a national audience. 

That both Kelly and Taggart made their names as offensive maestros makes the way each lost that much more interesting and alarming. Their teams combined for 20 points. At home. Both averaged 40-plus per game at Oregon with healthy starting quarterbacks on the field. 

"Tough loss," Taggart told reporters following his team's five-turnover performance. "Not what anyone expected."

Said Kelly on Saturday: "Just too many mistakes...We knew going in we were young."

So what does any of this mean?

Well, according to many on Twitter, Taggart, now 47-51 as a head coach, is overrated and will certainly run FSU into the ground. He can't coach offense and he's a fraud. Of course, that ignores his top 10 offense at South Florida in 2016 and the fact that Oregon last season averaged 50 points per game with a healthy Justin Herbert in the lineup. 

Kelly, who had four years of dominance with the Ducks, has been given a little bit more leeway. Still, given that he once was tabbed with the "genius" label, the reviews of his first outing in Los Angeles weren't kind. 

Of course, it's unfair to judge any coach by even a handful of games, let alone just one. That rational, however, won't ever stop those with access to social media to fire off a quick zinger at the expense of a millionaire coach. And if you're a Ducks fan, it makes perfect sense to feel a sense of satisfaction watching two men fail after both said "no" to Oregon. 

Kelly wouldn't, and shouldn't, ever return to Oregon. He knew he had exhausted all he could out of the Ducks when he left for the NFL following the 2012 season. Returning to Eugene after failing at two NFL stops would be a sign of his career sliding backward. 

Taggart took over for Helfrich and infused some energy into the Ducks' program while taking UO's recruiting to new heights. Then, his dream job opened up and he couldn't resist, so he left Oregon after one season, leaving behind many bitter fans.  

The truth is that both Kelly and Taggart are in better situations. Each resides in a state filled with elite level talent just beyond the doorsteps of their respective programs. If either had returned Oregon to national prominence, he certainly would have done the same at UCLA and Florida State. 

In many ways, Cristobal is UO's consolation prize. He must live up to not only the grand expectations surrounding Oregon based on an era of excellence far in the rearview mirror, but he also must coach knowing that most of the fan base wanted Kelly to return or Taggart to remain. That's a lot of pressure to contend with. 

So far, Cristobal leads this race, 1-0. But don't become too giddy, just yet.

Kelly was never the coaching God many Oregon fans made him out to be. He was in the right place at the right time during his years at Oregon when the Pac-10/12 was far weaker, and USC and Washington were down. Still, Kelly is a very good coach and motivator, and he will have success at UCLA after he turns around what amounts to somewhat of a rebuilding project.

As for Taggart, he will soon be loaded with as much talent as he could ever want at FSU. Chances are that he will win far more games than not. But he has far more to lose by failing at FSU than Kelly does at UCLA. Taggart has never won a bowl game or a conference title, yet he has taken over one of the most coveted jobs in the country.

Coaches recently voted him the most overrated coach in the country. He did nothing to disprove that belief on Monday. 

The tale of these three connected coaches won't be complete for a few years. All three are in good places with great opportunities for success. 

After one weekend, Oregon fans should feel good about Cristobal while also recognizing that the Ducks whipped a weak Bowling Green team. They should also snicker at both Kelly's and Taggart's first-game failures while also realizing that the very reasons you wanted them at Oregon will likely make them both successful in their new jobs. 

Taggart can shed "overrated" label by finishing the job

Taggart can shed "overrated" label by finishing the job

Former Oregon coach Willie Taggart's rapid rise through the coaching ranks that landed him at Florida State without ever having won a championship or even a bowl game appears to be the impetus behind him being voted the most "overrated" coach by some of his peers in a recent poll conducted by CBSSports.com

CBS Sports interviewed coaches anonymously for its poll and 20 percent named Taggart and Penn State coach James Franklin as the most overrated in their profession. The selection of Franklin is interesting considering that he returned the Nittany Lions to national prominence with back-to-back 11-win seasons following the program's fall following the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal that rocked Penn State only a few years ago. 

The selection of Taggart, however, appears to be a bit harsh but not completely without merit. 

Taggart has one of the most coveted and respected jobs in the country and got that position without having ever won a conference title, let alone contending for a national championship. Plus, his overall record of 47-50 compiled at Western Kentucky (16-20), South Florida (24-25) and Oregon (7-5) certainly doesn't appear to befit the coach of a such a prominent program. 

The fact of the matter is that Taggart has yet to prove that he is a championship-caliber coach. All we know is that he is one hell of a recruiter and if you have a struggling program in need of a jolt of personality, energy, swag and offensive firepower, Taggart is most certainly your guy. 

But can he secure some hardware for the trophy case? That remains to be seen.

In many ways, Taggart's overall record isn't exactly reflective of his coaching abilities. Is it fair to judge a coach's record when he takes on reclamation projects?

The combined records of WKU, USF and UO during the year prior to Taggart's arrival to the respective programs was 7-29. Western Kentucky went 0-12 before Taggart returned the Hilltoppers back to respectability with 7-5 records in years two and three of his rebuild. South Florida went 3-9 before Taggart's arrival. He got them to 8-5 in year three and 10-2 in his fourth season before departing for Oregon, which was coming off of a 4-8 season. Taggart went 7-5 with the Ducks before jetting off to FSU.

Taggart's combined record in the final season of his respective three prior jobs is 24-12. 

Taggart has changed jobs so rapidly during his rebuilds that he has yet to taste winning a bowl game. He got the Hilltoppers to a bowl game in his third season, but he left for South Florida before Western Kentucky lost 24-21 to Central Michigan in the Little Caesar's Bowl. 

Taggart went to a bowl game following his third season at South Florida (8-5) only to lose 45-35 to - wait for it - Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl (whatever that is). The Bulls went 10-2 the following year before Taggart left for Oregon prior to the team's 46-39 win over Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl. 

Of course, everyone around here remembers that Taggart left Oregon 10 days before it lost 38-28 to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

What is evident is that whenever Taggart gets a program going in the right direction, another looks to swipe him away in order to fix their mess. That naturally leads to rebuilds that ultimately can skew a coach's won-loss record. 

If you erase Taggart's first seasons at WKU and USF where he put out dumpster fires while going a combined 4-20, Taggart is 43-30. That type of record at FSU, however, would certainly get Taggart fired.  

Now settled into his "dream job," Taggart has nowhere else to go. Bigger or better jobs do not exist on Taggart's radar. He would only leave FSU for either the NFL or if he were fired. The former won't happen unless he wins. 

Taggart has no excuse not to rack up Ws. FSU's roster is loaded, which is why the Seminoles are ranked No. 19 in the preseason AP Poll. Taggart's first recruiting class at FSU - largely neglected by the out-going Jimbo Fisher - finished ranked No. 11 on 247Sports.com. The four years prior under Fisher, FSU's classes ranked No. 6 (2017), No. 3 (2016), No. 3 (2015) and No. 4 (2014).

Unless there were a ton of wild misses in talent evaluation over the past five years, the Seminoles should be stacked with enough talent to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference for years to come. 

Taggart was asked if the loss put a damper on the positivity that surrounded the program since he took over.

 

"Too many mistakes..." Kelly said. "We knew going in we were young."

Young team playing several freshman. now the teaching begins with film of their blunders.

"We're down to seven seniors," Kelly said. "It's a younger team. Not a lot of experience. That's not an excuse. It's a reality."

It's during that time when Taggart will either shed the "overrated" tag, or prove the label to be correct.

 

"When you lose, of course there's a little damper," he said. "But it's not the end of the world."

Taggart tagged as most overrated coach in CFB

Taggart tagged as most overrated coach in CFB

College football coaches plus anonymity equals eye-catching quotes and hot takes.

A coaching panel was asked to name the most overrated coach in college football and former Oregon coach Willie Taggart topped the list.

According to a poll in which CBS Sports spoke with one-fifth of the 129 active coaches leading FBS teams entering the season, Taggart and Penn State’s James Franklin each received 20 percent of the vote.

Taggart enters his first season at Florida State, replacing Jimbo Fisher, after one year at Oregon. He is 47-50 overall as a head coach with stops at Western Kentucky and South Florida. He repeatedly called FSU his “dream job”.

A “dream job” that some FBS coaches don’t believe he had earned.

“He was only at Oregon for one year, and it’s not like he really transformed that program — and that’s a place that’s won for a long time,” one coach said of Taggart. “Not that he isn’t good — he’s won. But usually when you get a job like Florida State, it’s because you’ve won some championships or done something really amazing.”

Another coach said he voted for Taggart because “he still has a career losing record.”

Taggart is universally respected as a recruiter, but because of his losing career record and relatively short resume (plus probably some jealousy) his peers seem to question the new Seminoles head coach’s validity.

Or maybe it's his showmanship and confidence that turns off his peers. Taggart brought the "swag surf" to the Oregon student section, the "juice" to the football team and smeared the "Do Something" slogan all over Autzen stadium.

[READ: Oregon linebacker Troy Dye calls out Willie Taggart on Twitter]

It should be noted that Taggart took over three losing programs that went a combined 7-29 before his arrival and got them all to bowl games before departing for better job.  

Taggart wasn’t the only coach who was criticized. Nick Saban was labeled a “cheater” by one head coach.

"If you had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country every year [you'd win like Nick Saban]," one coach said. "He shows up at every single game with a better roster than the teams he's playing. … If you count cheating and getting the best players in the country as part of running a program, he's the best in the country. It's like saying an NFL coach is the best coach in the league if he gets 25 first-round picks every year."

Noteably, three of five of the most underrated coaches hail from the Pac-12 conference. Twelve percent of coaches panel voted for Stanford’s David Shaw and Washington’s Chris Peterson as the most underrated head coaches in the nation.  Utah’s Kyle Whittingham wasn’t far behind, grabbing eight percent of the votes.