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Taggart hired as new USF football coach

Five days after USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard stood in front of reporters at the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center to announce the firing of football coach Skip Holtz, multiple reports surfaced that the successor has been decided.

After reports of talks, interviews and negotiations, news that Western Kentucky coach and Bradenton Manatee High School product Willie Taggart will be returning to his home state broke on Friday evening.

Though USF has not released an official statement yet, Taggart reportedly told Western Kentucky players after practice on Friday afternoon that he would be coaching at USF. The Hilltoppers are preparing to play in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl against Central Michigan on Dec. 26, and it is not known whether Taggart will coach that game.

The 38-year-old Palmetto, Fla. native, who led Western Kentucky to its first ever bowl game this season, was one of the leading names after Holtz was fired, mainly because of his local ties and up-and-coming status in the college landscape.

Taggart earned local support earlier in the week when ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale, a Tampa native, voiced his support for Taggart via Twitter and current Bradenton Manatee High coach Joe Kinnan, who coached Taggart for four years, also publicly endorsed him.

Woolard announced a coaching search had begun last Sunday. When Holtz was hired in 2010, his selection was announced six days after former coach Jim Leavitt had been fired.

Taggart was running backs coach for then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh form 2007-2009 and coached Toby Gerhart when the running back was invited to New York and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.

It is unclear whether Taggart will bring his entire staff or will keep some of the current staff at USF. An official announcement is expected soon.