When administrators at the University of South Florida went looking for a new football coach they didn't have to go far.
Saturday afternoon the school announced a man with strong ties to Tampa Bay had been selected to replace Skip Holtz, who was fired last week.
Willie Taggart, a 1994 graduate of prep football power Manatee High School in Bradenton, has been named as the third head coach in the history of the Bulls program.
"I had said that I wouldn't leave [Western Kentucky University] unless I felt I could win a national championship," Taggart said during Saturday's news conference. "I truly believe we can do that here [at USF]. It wasn't too long ago that USF was #2 in the nation so we have proven we can get there."
Last week Holtz was fired one day after the Bulls season ended with a 27-3 loss to the University of Pittsburgh. USF lost nine of its final 10 games. During his three years at the helm of the Bulls, Holtz compiled a record of 16-21, 5-16 in the Big East.
During Saturday's introduction Taggart, 36, thanked Holtz and said he had a lot of respect for his predecessor.
It's now his job to take the program to the next level and he's eager to get started.
"What we have to do now is get everybody on the bus and in the right seat," explained Taggart. "And let Coach T drive the bus."
In 1992 while playing for legendary Manatee High School Coach Joe Kinnan Taggart led the ‘Canes to a Class 5A state championship as a junior. His senior season he led the team back to the Class 5A finals where they lost Miami Southridge.
After graduation Taggart went on to play quarterback for Western Kentucky University. He was the Hilltoppers starter at the position for all four of his years at the school.
Taggart is one of only four players in WKU history to have their number retired.
After graduation he worked as an assistant coach on Jack Harbaugh's staff. In 2002 when the Hilltoppers captured the Division I-AA national championship Taggart served as the team's offensive coordinator.
In 2006 Harbaugh's son Jim hired Taggart as running backs coach at Stanford University. Earlier this week when speculation on the USF job reached the San Francisco 49ers coach he gave Taggart a ringing endorsement.
The Bulls' new coach says he will hit the ground running as he attempts to get the program back on the right track.
"I plan on talking to all the kids who are committed to coming here and I plan to talk to some who have not yet committed," Taggart added. "This area produces a high volume of quality players and it's my hope to keep them close to home."
In three seasons at WKU Taggart compiled a record of 16-20. The Hilltoppers finished the 2012 campaign with a record of 7-5, good enough for a berth in the Little Caesar's Bowl.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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