On Wednesday Judge Margaret Taylor broke the mold of decorum usually seen from judges when she personally rebuked South Florida head coach Charlie Strong for behavior of a Bulls football player whose case she was hearing.
“Let’s just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now. And I have a message for your coach as well," Taylor said. "Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players — very violent felonies. This court, and I’m sure I’m not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It’s fairly clear that you do not have control over them off the field and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field. I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players.”
Blindsided, Strong eventually was forced to issue a statement of his own.
Still, Taylor was criticized for personally challenging Strong's character considering he didn't recruit the player in question, 22-year-old LaDarrius Jackson.
It appears that criticism has gotten to Judge Taylor, as the Tampa Bay Timesreports Thursday Taylor has voluntarily removed herself from the Jackson case.
By Thursday morning, Judge Taylor issued an order voluntarily disqualifying herself from the case, citing a state judicial rule about a defendant fearing he won't get a fair hearing because of "prejudice or bias of the judge." Through her judicial assistant, she declined to comment Thursday morning.
Jackson is on trial for sexual battery and false imprisonment. It stands to reason the new judge, who will be on the case as soon as Friday, will hear the case without tying the events to the defendant's football coach.
Still, Wednesday was a damaging day for the USF football program. Taylor's comments made the rounds throughout the media and, surely, into the mouths of rival recruiters.