Willie Taggart didn’t want to leave Oregon. If Arizona State, or UCLA, or anybody else had come calling, he would’ve said no. He liked Oregon. His family liked Oregon. He liked his players, his bosses, and his first year on the job was a success, leading a 4-8 team to a 7-5 season despite playing much of the year without starting quarterback Justin Hebert.
But Willie Taggart didn’t lay in his Palmetto, Fla., childhood bedroom at night dreaming of being the head coach of the Ducks. He was a Seminole long before the school officially hired him on Tuesday.
“Growing up in my household, if you weren’t a ‘Noles fan you probably weren’t staying in that house,” Taggart said at his introductory press conference on Wednesday. “You would have thought everybody in that house graduated from FSU and none of us did.”
In fact, allegiance to Florida State football means more to some Taggart family members than actual family. Taggart told a famous story of seeing his brother before a USF-FSU game when Taggart was the Bulls’ head coach. Taggart’s brother wore his Seminoles gear like it was just another game and not, you know, his brother on the opposite sideline.
“You know how people say blood is thicker than water? Not in my household,” he said. “I’m at the University of South Florida, we’re playing the Seminoles and my brother, a diehard Seminole fan, and we’re talking about the game and he’s like, ‘I’m sorry, bro. I love you. But I can’t go against my ‘Noles.'”
The Taggart clan remains in Florida, which made the Oregon job tougher after Taggart’s father, John, passed away during fall camp.
Lord I trust you, even when it don't make sense. #RIPDAD
— Willie Taggart (@CoachTaggart) August 11, 2017
“I’m here now because my dad,” Taggart said. “I know he’s up there in Heaven, put a good word into the Good Lord, ‘Please get my son back closer to home and be around his mom.'”
Taggart is also in Tallahassee today because of his oldest son, Willie, Jr. Taggart said he was home in Eugene Monday night discussing his stay-or-go dilemma with his wife, Taneshia. He obviously felt the tug at his heart strings to take the Florida State job, but there was a different tug as well, one of his duty to his players, his assistants and his bosses at Oregon. Leaving after just one year would be viewed as a disappointment. There was no getting around that.
But whatever dilemma existed on Monday night ended when Willie Taggart, Jr., walked in the room.
“I had a profound moment in my life as a father,” Taggart said. “My wife and I were sitting there talking about this decision, my 16-year-old son came in. Out of nowhere he said, ‘Dad, I know you’re struggling with this decision. I know that’s your dream job. You always tell me to chase my dreams and don’t let anyone get in the way of it. I don’t think it’s right for me or anyone else to stop you from chasing your dreams. If you’re going to chase your dream, I’m going to ride with you.
“It made me follow my own advice that I gave him. My wife and I, we just sat there and cried.”
Willie Taggart is the head coach at Florida State today because of his family, but also because Florida State football is part of his family.