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December 7, 2012

Willie Taggart to USF

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Willie Taggart is leaving his position as head football coach at WKU to take the same position at South Florida.

Taggart coached three seasons at WKU, leading the program to its first FBS bowl game in school history.

He finished with a career record of 16-20 coaching the Hilltoppers, finishing 2-10 his first season, before two consecutive seasons at 7-5.

Taggart led WKU to one of its most memorable victories in school history in 2012, a 32-31 overtime victory over in-state foe Kentucky in Lexington.

WKU is scheduled to play in the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26. Former defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will take over as interim head coach until a permanent hire is made.

Taggart broke the news to the Hilltopper players after practice concluded Friday afternoon, calling a post-practice team meeting.

During the meeting, he informed the players of the news--saying specifically he had to do what was best for his family.

Taggart had been considered a heavy favorite for the job due to his connections in the South Florida area.

The former WKU quarterback played high school football in Manatee County, less than a hour drive from South Florida's main campus in Tampa.

The school addressed the state of the football program in a press conference Saturday morning.

"Obviously, we are very disappointed that Coach Taggart will no longer be our head football coach," Stewart said. "He did a tremendous job for WKU - inheriting a program with a 20-game losing streak before posting back to back 7-5 records in his second and third seasons.

"And, as everyone knows, this past Sunday our program earned our first ever bowl appearance as a Football Bowl Subdivision member."

Stewart made it clear the administration gave their best efforts to retain Taggart.

"I initially met with him (Taggart) during our bye week in early October and told him we had raised sufficient private funds to offer him a package that could make him the highest paid coach in the Sun Belt Conference," Stewart said. "He felt announcing a new contract during the season would be a distraction to the team and wanted to keep the focus on football. We respected that decision and mutually agreed to wait until the end of the regular season to discuss a new contract.

"This past week we again extended a term sheet that offered Coach Taggart a contract that would enable him to become the highest paid coach in our conference."

Guidry will be coaching his second bowl game as interim head coach, the first coming during his previous coaching tenure at Miami (OH).

"Got a chance to lead these young men to a bowl game and try and get this bowl victory that Western deserves and they deserve," Guidry said. "The kids are excited about it and the team meeting went well. I think they're ready to roll."

The new interim coach has already began delegating roles to the remaining assistants.

"We're gonna have to get another assistant, probably, within the staff that's gonna probably assume a full-time position," Guidry said. "Coach Wells and Coach Sheridan will keep doing what they're doing. Coach Wells always does the run game and Coach Sheridan does the pass game.

"Walt will call the plays and he's an experienced guy. He's a really good football coach and Nick's very bright, too. They're probably combination call the game between passes and runs."

Senior tight end Jack Doyle said the transition happened very quickly for the players.

"It was quick," Doyle said. "I have the utmost respect for Coach Taggart, he had to do what was best for his family. We wish him well.

"Todd came in to the team meeting this morning and gave us some wise words. One thing he said was, 'Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react. It's up to these seniors to get this team right and let them react the right way and get this victory for WKU."

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