Named the 33rd head coach in Oregon football history on Dec. 7, 2016, Willie Taggart arrived in Eugene after building a reputation as one of college coaching’s brightest offensive minds and a proven winner.
In seven seasons as a head coach, Taggart has rebuilt two different programs in Western Kentucky (2010-12) and South Florida (2013-16). The native of the Tampa Bay, Fla., area brings a proven track record of creating a positive student-athlete experience while also placing a winning product on the field.
Taggart took over a three-win South Florida team in 2013 and used his energy and stellar recruiting style to put the program back on a winning track, while also rallying USF fans with his “Do Something” mantra. Taggart turned the program into an offensive juggernaut in only four years, leading the Bulls to a program-record 10-2 mark in 2016 with seven conference victories after going 2-10 in his first season. The Bulls closed the 2016 regular season in the AP poll (No. 25) for just the second time in program history and reached back-to-back bowl games after earning a bid to the 2016 Birmingham Bowl.
A quarterback in his playing days at Western Kentucky, Taggart molded the South Florida offense into one of the nation’s best over his four seasons with the “Gulf Coast Offense.” The Bulls ranked seventh in the country in points per game (43.6) during the 2016 regular season and fifth in rushing offense (291.75 ypg).
The team’s primary play caller, Taggart led an offense that set 33 program records, including scoring, total touchdowns, total yards, rushing yards, yards per play, yards per carry and points per game. Taggart also molded a number of standout players at USF with a program-record 10 landing on all-conference teams, highlighted by quarterback Quinton Flowers, who was named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year after becoming the first USF player ever to post 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season.
Prior to revamping the offense at South Florida, Taggart laid the foundation by reeling in some of the most highly-regarded recruiting classes in program history. Taggart’s first full recruiting period at USF resulted in the consensus No. 1 ranked class in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in 2014, and he landed the conference’s top class once again a year later.
Taggart’s players have found success in the classroom in addition to on the field, with the USF football program experiencing a rise in Graduation Success Rate (GSR) over each of Taggart’s four seasons. The Bulls also saw record numbers of academic all-conference honorees in each of Taggart’s first three seasons, including 38 in 2015.
Before he was hired at USF in 2013, Taggart spent three seasons remaking a Western Kentucky program that was enduring a 20-game losing streak upon his arrival. After just one year of transition, Taggart guided his alma mater to two straight winning seasons (7-5 in 2011, 7-6 in 2012) and the program’s first bowl appearance - the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - since moving from FCS to FBS. WKU won 12 of 14 games under Taggart from Oct. 2011 to Oct. 2012, with the only losses coming to No. 1-ranked teams in LSU and Alabama.
Taggart proved his ability as a recruiter as well at Western Kentucky, securing the top classes in the Sun Belt Conference in both 2010 and 2011.
In his seven seasons as a head coach, Taggart boasts a 40-45 overall record (.471) and has led his teams to four bowl appearances.
Prior to becoming the head coach of the Hilltoppers, Taggart worked as the running backs coach at Stanford under head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2007-09. He joined the program following a 1-11 season in 2006 and was instrumental in the development of the Cardinal offense and running game that has become one of the nation’s best. In 2009, Stanford led the Pac-10 in total offense (441.4 ypg), ranked second in the conference and 11th in the nation in rushing offense (224.3 ypg) and broke the school’s single-season rushing record that had stood since 1949 with 2,481 yards. Taggart also helped to groom the 2009 Doak Walker Award winner in Toby Gerhart, who averaged 144.7 rushing yards per game while also maintaining a 3.25 GPA.
Taggart started his coaching career at Western Kentucky in 1999, returning to the institution he attended and would later bring to prominence as its head coach. Taggart worked at WKU in multiple capacities from 1999 to 2006, starting as the receivers coach for a year before spending a year as quarterbacks coach (2000), two as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2001-02) and four as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach (2003-06).
Under Taggart's guidance from 2003-06, quarterback Justin Haddix set school career records with 8,890 yards of total offense, a 57.1 completion percentage, 50 touchdowns and a 137.28 pass efficiency rating. Haddix also finished his career ranked second all-time at WKU with 541 completions and 7,929 passing yards.
Taggart helped coach an offensive unit that set school records for points (432), total yards (5,479) and first downs (263), en route to the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA national championship. The Hilltoppers ranked second in the nation in pass efficiency and sixth in rushing, and averaged 38.8 points per contest in four playoff victories.
Taggart’s coaching career began just a year after he wrapped up a stellar playing career at Western Kentucky, where he was the starting quarterback from 1995-98. Taggart set 11 WKU school records while directing the offense and had his jersey retired on Oct. 23, 2016. He finished his career as WKU's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (47), ranked second in scoring (286 points), pass efficiency rating (127.71) and rushing yards (3,997), tied for third in most 100-yard rushing games (17) and tied for fourth in touchdown passes (30). His rushing yards were the most in NCAA Division I history at the time for a quarterback.
Recruited to WKU by Harbaugh to play for his father, Jack, Taggart graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Prior to college, Taggart was a prep standout at Bradenton Manatee High School, where he was a first-team all-state and all-conference selection as a senior after guiding the Hurricanes to the state 5A championship game.
Taggart and his wife, Taneshia, have two sons, Willie Jr. and Jackson, and one daughter, Morgan.