Oregon searching for coach again after Taggart bolts
By ANNE M. PETERSON
Less than a year after Willie Taggart inspired the Ducks with his tagline "Do Something," Oregon is searching for a new coach.
Oregon's players were summoned to a meeting at the team's football complex early Tuesday afternoon for the announcement that Taggart had accepted the coaching job at Florida State.
Senior cornerback Ty Griffin tweeted the words "He gone" with a smoke puff emoji.
It will be Taggart's third program in three seasons. He replaces Jimbo Fisher, who took the job at Texas A&M. Taggart was officially coach of the Ducks for 363 days.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was named interim coach. The Ducks play Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16.
"I was disappointed," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said. "We sat down a year ago and we made a commitment to him. He made a commitment to us. We have done everything to support our commitment to get here today and I'm disappointed."
Taggart was hired by Oregon last December after the team went 4-8 under Mark Helfrich, who was fired three days after a season-ending 34-24 loss to rival Oregon State.
The 41-year-old Florida native had a reputation as a rebuilder. He arrived in Eugene after four years at South Florida, where he guided the Bulls from a 2-10 record his first year to a 10-2 mark last year and a spot in the Birmingham Bowl.
Before that, he spent three seasons coaching his alma mater, Western Kentucky, inheriting a winless program that he turned around with back-to-back winning seasons.
When Taggart was hired by Oregon, he said he had three basic tenets: "Make no excuses, blame no one, do something." "Do Something" became his tagline for his first season with the Ducks.
One of his first moves was to convince running back Royce Freeman to stay for his senior year.
Freeman went on to have a record-setting season, including a new Pac-12 career milestone for rushing touchdowns with 60. The sturdy senior also set school records for career rushing yards (5,621), total touchdowns (64) and 100-yard rushing games (31).
But the season itself was erratic, partly because of a key injury.
Oregon started 4-1 and even briefly popped into the AP rankings, but quarterback Justin Herbert broke his collarbone and the Ducks floundered, going 1-4 without him.
Herbert returned for the final two games of the season, both wins that got the Ducks into a bowl game in Taggart's lone season.
Mullens confirmed Tuesday that Taggart was offered a contract extension just prior to the Ducks' 69-10 season-ending victory over Oregon State. The extension was worth a reported $20 million for five years.
Taggart has a $3 million buyout for his Oregon contract, as well as a $1.5 buyout that the Ducks paid South Florida.
Meanwhile, some recruits were grumbling about how the move was handled. Tigard High School's Bradan Lenzy decommitted.
Eli'Jah Winston, a senior outside lineman from Portland's Central Catholic, tweeted: "I didn't know it would've been handled so ugly. Respect the decision 100% but leaving us clueless was messed up."
Mullens said Oregon has launched a nationwide search for a new coach. He said he would consider coaches already in the program.
He was asked whether he'd look for a candidate with ties to the Pacific Northwest.
"That's a bonus but that's not where you start because that narrows the pool," Mullens said. "We want to have a diverse pool, a broad pool and we will have that."
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Updated December 5, 2017