The Florida job is officially open. While there are obvious candidates that come to mind both in Florida’s backyard and in its conference, another makes a lot of sense that is more available that one would assume.
Willie Taggart spent four years at South Florida, taking a program that had flatlined after program patriarch Jim Leavitt’s controversial departure and steadily building it up to one of the best in its class. The Bulls went 2-10 in Taggart’s first season of 2013, then 4-8 in ’14, 8-5 in ’15 and then 10-2 last season, closing with a 5-game winning streak and a No. 19 ranking in both polls.
Taggart could have remained in Tampa as a heavy favorite in the American — USF is 7-1 under Charlie Strong this season — but instead parlayed his success into the Oregon job. After a pair of controversies to begin his tenure, things have stabilized on the field. A team that went 4-8 last season under Mark Helfrich is 5-4 to date in 2017 while playing with a third-string quarterback.
Taggart signed a 5-year, $16 million contract last December that certainly locked him up in Eugene locked him up at Oregon, Matt Campbell-style, right? Wrong. Incredibly wrong. Diametrically wrong.
The fact is Taggart’s buyout makes him exceedingly attainable should Florida — or anyone else — wish to pursue him.
From the contract:
Additionally, Oregon paid $1.7 million to buy Taggart out of his South Florida contract. The Ducks would want most of that back.
The key passage is highlighted portion at the bottom, where Taggart would owe approximately 80 percent — with four years remaining on a 5-year deal — of the $1.7 million buyout. Eighty percent of $1.7 million is $1.36 million. Add that to $3 million is $4.36 million. And $4.36 million is not cheap.
So what’s the deal here?
Take a look at the highlighted portion from the paragraph just below Taggart’s Oregon buyout, the part that says he’d owe $3 million upon leaving before Jan. 31, 2018:
That says Florida — or anyone else — could pay $3 million up front and get it over with. Or it could prorate the entire buyout over the course of the contract. Three million dollars spread out over 48 months is $62,500 per month.
Florida’s athletics revenue in 2015-16 was $141 million, according to USA Today. That’s 0.044 percent of Florida’s total revenue, or the equivalent of a family with a household income of $100,000 paying $44 a month over four years.
If Florida chooses to pursue Taggart, he could be had for a $1.36 million up front payment and then a monthly payment equivalent to, well, a family paying off a new TV they bought from Best Buy.
Why would Florida want Taggart?
As we laid out above, Taggart is a proven program builder — he took Western Kentucky from 2-10 to back-to-back 7-5 seasons before leaving for USF — and he’s done it in Florida. He’s a Bradenton, Fla., native that is still young enough (41) that his own exploits as a high school quarterback will still be in the minds of, if not the players he’s recruiting, high school coaches across the Sunshine State.
Here’s SB Nation recruiting analyst (and Florida State fan) Bud Elliott arguing Taggart would be the ideal candidate at Florida State should that job suddenly come open.
Florida and Florida State are siblings that can’t stand each other, yes, but siblings share DNA. What works in Tallahassee would work in Gainesville, and vice versa.
Now here’s Stricklin speaking last night on what he understands the DNA of Florida football to be:
“When Florida has been really good, from a distance, it has looked really fun and I want it to be really fun. Our fans, they deserve it to be really fun. I want our players and student-athletes to have a lot of fun. I don’t know exactly what that means from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but usually good leaders make everybody want to come and be excited to work together and that ends up being a lot of fun.”
If nothing else, Taggart is energetic. His coaching M.O. is youthful, aggressive, positive energy.
Sounds like fun to me.