EUGENE — The falling coaching dominoes still could have an impact on the Ducks.
According to reports, Florida State is vetting Oregon coach Willie Taggart as a potential candidate. Florida State lost its coach, Jimbo Fisher, when he accepted the head coaching job at Texas A&M Friday.
Taggart, a Palmetto, Florida, native, has led the Ducks to a 7-5 record in his first season. The 41-year-old was hired away from South Florida on Dec. 7, 2016, to replace the fired Mark Helfrich.
Oregon has responded with a preemptive strike, offering Taggart a new five-year contract worth $20 million, according to a Sports Illustrated report. His base salary this year was $2.9 million.
The Register-Guard confirmed that Oregon did offer Taggart a new deal last weekend.
The Ducks ended the regular season with a 69-10 victory over rival Oregon State on Saturday, the most lopsided result in the 121-game history of the Civil War.
When the Florida job opened earlier this season, Taggart quickly shut down speculation that he was a candidate. The Gators hired Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen on Sunday after losing the Chip Kelly sweepstakes to UCLA.
“The only (athletic director) I’ve been contacted by is Rob Mullens,” Taggart said before the Washington game. “And I love that guy.”
After Oregon’s 48-28 victory over Arizona, Taggart was asked about an ESPN report that he was unhappy in Eugene.
“Do I look unhappy?” Taggart said. “I’m not addressing any more rumors. You might have to ask that guy, whoever put that rumor out there. I’m tired of answering those; I’ve answered that before.”
Oregon has started to research potential candidates to replace Taggart in case he’s a one-and-done coach in Eugene, according to a FootballScoop report.
According to the terms of Taggart’s five-year contract with Oregon, he must provide Mullens with written or verbal notice before meeting with representatives from another entity to discuss employment opportunities.
If Taggart did decide to terminate his Oregon contract, he must notify Mullens of the decision in writing. This action cannot be taken during the football season, unless both parties mutually agree otherwise.
Taggart or Florida State would have to pay Oregon a $3 million buyout if he were to leave before Jan. 31, 2018, plus repay the bulk of the $1.7 million that was paid to buy out his South Florida deal.
Taggart has a 47-50 career coaching record after rebuilding Western Kentucky and South Florida from the ground up.
Fisher led the Seminoles to a BCS championship in 2013. Florida State’s 29-game winning streak was ended with a 59-20 loss to Oregon in a 2014 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
Two years after the Ducks played in the national title game against Ohio State, Helfrich was fired following a 4-8 finish in 2016.
Oregon is 6-1 and averaging 51.2 points this season when Justin Herbert starts, and was 1-4 and averaging 15 points when the sophomore quarterback was out with a fractured collarbone.
Taggart’s 2018 recruiting class currently is ranked No. 6 by 247Sports. The highest ranking the Ducks have ever had on signing day was No. 9 for Kelly’s 2011 class.
“What I want to see is this staff building the foundation that we need to have sustained success in the future. And that’s what I see,” Mullens said of his expectations for Taggart’s first season at Oregon. “They’ve absolutely engaged the current student-athletes and built strong relationships, which is our first priority. ...
“I love the enthusiasm and the excitement, but in the end it’s about doing it in steps. There’s very little patience in our business, even amongst ourselves, but we just want to see steady progress.”