In a bowl game situation, there’s always a risk a team will play without the coach that led it there.
South Carolina’s Birmingham Bowl opponent, South Florida, is likely about to experience that firsthand.
The news Bulls coach Willie Taggart would be hired at Oregon broke Wednesday morning and went official in the afternoon. Taggart led to the Bulls to a 10-2 record this season, and an 18-7 mark the past two years.
Co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist will take over in an interim role for the rest of the season. Weist was UConn’s interim for the final games of 2013, going 3-5.
Taggart got the USF job by turning around Western Kentucky’s fortunes. He started his time in Tampa 6-18 and his future was in doubt after a 1-3 start in year three, but he rallied to turn that program around as well.
Oregon fired Mark Helfrich last week after the Ducks went 4-8.
Taggart, 40, is the first coach Oregon has hired from outside the program since 1976. The Ducks’ previous three coaches, Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Helfrich, were all assistants who were promoted.
Taggart will be the first black head football coach at Oregon. The length and terms of his contract with the Ducks were not immediately released.
This is the second straight day the AAC has lost one of its best coaches, and the third the conference has lost since Thanksgiving weekend. Temple’s Matt Rhule was hired by Baylor on Monday and Tom Herman left Houston for Texas on Nov. 26.
Taggart was expected to announce his departure at a team meeting in Tampa early Wednesday afternoon.
He had support from former NFL player and broadcaster Tony Dungy, whose son Eric played at USF in 2014 after transferring from Oregon.
Taggart served as running backs coach for Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09 and is credited with helping to recruit Andrew Luck.
After taking over when Chip Kelly left in 2013, Helfrich went 37-16 in his four seasons as head coach of the Ducks. He signed a contract extension in early 2015, and had an $11.6 million buyout on his contract with the Ducks.
Just two seasons ago, Oregon went to the first College Football Playoff championship game, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.
But the Ducks struggled this season with a five-game losing streak – the program’s longest since 1996 – and finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 North with just two conference wins.