Six days after a somber Athletics Director Doug Woolard announced that former football coach Skip Holtz had been fired after the worst season in USF history, the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center was once again abuzz with green and gold balloons, cheerleaders and Rocky D. Bull.
More than 100 fans, alumni, players and university officials crammed into the Big East room awaiting the announcement of Willie Taggart as the new head football coach.
Taggart, former head coach of Western Kentucky, accepted a five-year, $5.75 million contract at $1.15 million per year and an assistant coaching staff budget of $1.9 million on Friday.
This is an exciting time in USF history, USF President Judy Genshaft, who was absent from last weeks conference, told the crowd. We have quite a winner in Coach Taggart.
Woolard said the coaching search included head college coaches, folks in the NFL, college coordinators and assistant coaches and thanked former NFL coach Tony Dungy for his help in the search process and for sitting in on interviews.
His work at Western Kentucky was incredible, taking a program thats lost 20 games in a row prior to his arrival and turning it into a bowl team in just three years, Woolard said to an audience, who seemed to place all their hopes for the football program with the energetic, new hire.
As Taggart took to the lectern, the crowd squealed and cheered, with chants like Go Willie! demonstrating excitement that had been missing for a large part of the last season.
Im excited to be here, he told the audience with a huge grin, as his eyes teared with mixed emotions. Youre going to get 100 percent from Coach Taggart on the football field and off the football field. Youre going to get the same thing from our players. I know what you want. Were not going to make any excuses. Were going to get to work. We have a lot of work to do … We have to put everybody on the bus, put them in the right seat and let Coach T drive this bus.”
Taggart said he met with the team Saturday afternoon and was appreciative to Holtz for the team he left behind.
Talking to our kids, I can see were going to do great things, he said. We have an opportunity to build something special.
Taggart said this week, he plans to get on the road and continue recruiting something he believes is essential for the team as they progress. Woolard said Western Kentucky had the top recruiting class in their conference in 2010 and 2011. Two commits who were recruited by Holtz decommitted after he was fired.
Recruiting is like brushing your teeth and combing your hair; the second you stop doing it you start to look bad, he said. (Ill) get us some big time players and I tell you what, theres no reason for any kid in the 813, 941, 863, whatever, not to come here and play football. If you want to be part of something special, if you want to help build a bully, come to USF. This is where were going to get it done.