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Willie Taggart, who guided WKU to the biggest one-season improvement in league wins in Sun Belt Conference history in only the program's third season competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, has agreed to a new four-year contract, Director of Athletics Ross Bjork announced today. The contract begins on January 1, 2012 and includes an automatic one-year rollover on December 31 of each year through 2019. Per standard university protocol, the contract will be presented to the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents for review on Friday, December 16, followed by submission to the full Board for approval at its next regularly scheduled meeting on January 20, 2012.
The new contract will increase Taggart's annual base salary to $475,000. Any season with eight regular season wins also triggers a 15% base salary increase for Taggart; any eight regular season wins in subsequent years will result in an additional 5% annual growth in base salary.
In addition, Taggart will have the following annual incentive bonuses:
· Winning a Sun Belt Conference championship (one month salary and one month salary for each assistant coach)
· Reaching a BCS Bowl (two month salary and two month salary for each assistant coach)
· Conference coach of the year ($10,000)
· National coach of the year ($10,000)
· Team semester GPA of 3.0 or higher ($5,000 each semester)
· Season ticket sales of 10,000 per year ($10,000 per year)
WKU Athletics also intends to increase WKU's assistant coach salary pool by 20%.
"This is a much deserved new contract for Coach Taggart, and we are pleased to demonstrate this level of commitment to him and the entire WKU football program," Bjork said. "Our second place finish in the Sun Belt Conference and 7-1 league record illustrates perfectly the significant impact Willie has had on our program since taking over just two seasons ago.
"We successfully competed on a consistent basis following our bye week in September, which is a tremendous credit to our entire coaching staff and players. In addition to helping our players develop and succeed on the field, Coach Taggart cares deeply about his players as both students and people. All 12 of our seniors are on schedule to graduate this year, and our 959 APR ranks second in the conference. We also have had the conference's top-rated recruiting class each of the last two seasons. Quite simply, every aspect of our program has improved under his watch and we are excited about the future."
"I sincerely appreciate the commitment made by Dr. Ransdell, Ross and the WKU administration," Taggart said. "I am very humbled by this show of support, and I will earn every bit of it. As I often say, 'WKU is in my DNA' and this is where I want to be. We had a very good season this year in many respects, and I would like to thank my coaching staff and our players for their hard work, dedication and sacrifices to the cause. While we made great strides this year in many areas, we still have work to do to continue this program's rise to achieving national respect. We need to perform better in non-conference games, and we need to fill Houchens-Smith Stadium on a consistent basis. Our program and the Hilltopper Nation can achieve anything we desire. We are looking forward to signing another strong recruiting class and beginning preparations for the 2012 season, and spring practice begins in just over three months. Go Tops!"
"This worthwhile and additional investment in our program is one we must make. We knew all along this level of commitment is necessary to continue to succeed at the FBS level," Bjork said. "As we continue to grow our program, we are asking the Hilltopper Nation and WKU family to take a like-minded approach in their support of WKU football. There are no limits to the successes we can share in if we march forward in unison. All of us look forward to taking our program to the next level."
Taggart was named head football coach at WKU on November 23, 2009. He inherited a team that posted a 2-22 record over the two seasons prior to his arrival, and WKU's 7-1 conference record this year after a 2-6 league record a year ago stands as the biggest one-season improvement in Sun Belt Conference history. WKU's offense leads the nation in time of possession, and Bobby Rainey ranks second in the nation in rushing. John Evans ranks second in the nation in kickoff return yardage, and Andrew Jackson ranks third in the conference in tackles. WKU also enters the 2012 season with a seven game conference winning streak, the fifth-longest current streak in the country. In his first season as head coach, Taggart helped lead WKU to road wins at Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State and Rainey was named Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year after ranking third in the nation in rushing. Rainey also led the nation in rushing attempts and was named Honorable Mention All-American by SI.com, while Willie McNeal was named Freshman All-American as a kickoff returner.
Fans can now renew or reserve season tickets for the 2012 WKU football season by calling 1-800-5-BIG-RED or logging onto wkusports.com. WKU opens the season by hosting Austin Peay on September 1. Conference USA champion Southern Miss, who currently ranks 21st in the nation in the BCS standings and the USA Today coaches poll, will visit Houchens-Smith Stadium on September 22. WKU will also host Sun Belt opponents Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee and North Texas.