TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An emotional Willie Taggart said becoming Florida State's head football coach was the fulfillment of a dream he had since childhood.
"I want to start off by telling everyone, don’t be afraid to chase your dream," Taggart, a Bradenton native, said. "Growing up playing football every single day, in my household, if you weren't a 'Noles fan, you weren't staying in that house."
At his introduction at Florida State Wednesday, Taggart named off a list of former Seminoles who were his favorite players growing up, from Deion Sanders, to Charlie Ward to Warrick Dunn. Taggart said that he always rooted for the Seminoles when he was coaching elsewhere, except in his days at South Florida.
"It’s pretty amazing how life can put you in places where you need to be. There are different ways of getting there, crazy ways of getting there," Taggart said. "All those years, I wanted to be a 'Nole. Now we’re here today and I’m the coach for the Florida State Seminoles. I can officially say I’m in now."
One of the immediate challenges Taggart faces is the early signing period for recruits that runs Dec. 20-22. Taggart said that he was anxious to get on the road and recruit. Taggart's experience at USF should serve him well in the recruiting game because he focused on the Sunshine State during recruiting. Over the past week, six FSU commitments announced that they were reopening their searches of where to attend college.
"The best football in the country is here in the state of Florida. We need to put a fence around the state of Florida and try to keep our best football players here," Taggart said. "But we're also a national brand and Florida State University don't have to settle for anything and we can go after the best of them nationwide, but we're going to take care of things at home."
Taggart said that he would run the "Gulf Coast Offense," a style that he popularized while at USF.
"I like explosive plays. I like to score fast," Taggart said. "As long as we can score fast and often, I'll be happy."
The 41-year old coached at South Florida for four seasons before going to Oregon. Taggart has a 47-50 career record, including 7-5 this season, but is known 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 as head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, inheriting a winless program that he turned around with back-to-back winning seasons.
However Taggart doesn't feel Florida State isn't starting from scratch. "This isn't a rebuild, this is a realignment," said Taggart. "Our goal is to win Championships. By this time next year we don't want to be on the outside of the ACC Championship or the College Football playoffs."
Taggart, and Odell Haggins - Fisher's replacement on an interim basis - are the first black head football coaches at Florida State. Haggins will coach the Seminoles in the Independence Bowl before turning over the reins to Taggart.
Haggins led the Seminoles (6-6) to a 42-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe in Saturday's regular-season finale. He will coach the Seminoles in the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl against Southern Mississippi.
This was the first time Florida State had to conduct a coaching search since 1975.
Bobby Bowden was the Seminoles' coach for 34 seasons and put the program on the map with two national championships. Fisher was hired as offensive coordinator in 2007 and was also named as the head-coach-in-waiting. He took over in 2010 following Bowden's retirement.
When Taggart was hired by Oregon, he said he had three basic tenets: "Make no excuses, blame no one, do something," tenants he reiterated during his introductory media conference. "Do Something" became his tagline for his first season with the Ducks.
Oregon started this past season 4-1 and even briefly popped into the AP rankings, but starting 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. Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will be the interim head coach when Oregon faces Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16.
Taggart will be tasked with restoring a Florida State program that has failed to live up to expectations the last two seasons.
Since winning 33 of 34 games between 2013 and 2015, including a national championship, The Seminoles are 20-12, including 10-10 in the ACC.
Florida State was ranked third in the Top 25 preseason poll but lost quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama and was beset by other injuries. The Seminoles won their final three games to finish 6-6 and extend their bowl streak to 36 consecutive seasons.
Taggart's contract with Oregon was for $16 million over five years that included a $3 million buyout if he left before Jan. 31, 2018. A week ago, when it appeared that the Florida State job would be open, he was offered a four-year, $20 million extension a week ago.
FSU will pay Taggart $30 million over six years. Florida State will also pay the remaining $1.3 million he still owes South Florida and $3 million owed to Oregon as part of buyouts of his previous contracts.