It has been a long week. I am currently in Chatanooga, Tennessee on my way to South Carolina for my new gig with the same company. In the wee hours of the night, while driving and when I get a chance to take a break, I am getting as many updates as possible.
The rumors of Willie Taggart's potential departure have been rampant since it became very clear that Jimbo Fisher would be leaving Florida State. There was no question Fisher was leaving despite his refusal to acknowledge what had become obvious.
WHAT I HAVE HEARD
The thing is, there are a lot of people with 'sources' inside many different places. Mine are not singular and they are not even dual. I have sources in many places. When I get information from one, I cross reference that with what I am hearing from other sources, then I check sources from the insiders at other involved schools. I take all of that and bounce it around within a logic meter.
I have been hearing for quite some time that the 'Taggart is unhappy in Oregon' narrative is false. It has been pushed out there by someone who needs other schools to believe Taggart might be open to jumping ship after one season. That is how an agent begins to create leverage; he makes an interested party believe they have a chance, floats the rumor so that the new school will get involved if an opening occurs.
In this case, the rumors simply are not true. No matter how many people say so, I have heard from some pretty reliable (and direct) sources that he is very happy in Oregon. Were there some adjustment issues? Absolutely. Especially when he was here last year and his family was in Florida. Do they miss some family and friends? Yes. This was especially difficult for Taggart when his father passed away. Being three thousand miles away was not something that eased the pain or the transition. But I have heard the have adjusted well.
So what about the 'done deal' that supposedly had Taggart agreeing to the framework of moving on? I have heard from multiple sources with direct knowledge of the process that this is simply not true. Earlier in the week, Florida State insiders believed it was pretty much a done deal; but that talk was walked back as the week went along to the point where he became the 'top' target, but no deal was in place.
Does the concept have some intrigue for Taggart? Yes. He was born and raised in the Southeast; aside from his short tenure at Stanford, he had been there almost his entire life. It's what he knows. As one source told me today; 'it's home and it's Florida State.' But still, Taggart actually loves what he has in place in Oregon and he knows that the issues which face any coach are much less complicated in Eugene. There is one mega booster who is about as hands off as any booster could be. That is not the case at many of the schools who will be courting Taggart.
Another source told me earlier this week that he 'did not think there was anything to worry about' when it came to Taggart leaving. I have heard from parents, players, former players, and recruits that Taggart is staying. Even those recruits closest to him have indicated that he is staying.
The other thing I have heard is that there is a reason that the contract extension he was offered was leaked - with terms - earlier this week. The Ducks knew that Florida State was going to come hard for Taggart. They wanted to get the number out there to set an initial price and see if Florida State was going to throw stupid money around or be disciplined with this hire. While Taggart is young and energetic, he is not on the level of Nick Saban or Urban Meyer and will not be able to command $7 million per year; if Florida State offers something that insane, the Ducks won't match. But if they come in as expected in the 4-4.5 million range, the Ducks will match. In that case, I expect Taggart to stay.
WHAT DO I THINK?
So what to make of all this? There is a lot of 'agenting' going on in this instance and the agent for Taggart is the same as the agent for many college coaches; Jimmy Sexton. He is very, very good at finding ways to create leverage and he is very, very good at getting his coaches to use the coach speak about other jobs. In fact, what Taggart said today was almost verbatim what Fisher said yesterday "I am the coach here and we are busting our tails to get our team ready for it's next game. I don't talk about rumors."
Not only do I contact my own sources; I read everything I can find. So here is what I think. Taggart never wanted to leave Oregon, but to get a big raise following a 7-5 season, he needed leverage; that Fisher was leaving Florida State; it created the only opening which could have created enough leverage to up the ante from Oregon.
The issue is that Sexton may have overplayed his hand at Florida State. This was the third year in a row where he used interest from another program to attempt to get more and more from Florida State. They want a great young coach, but are not likely to play too well with Sexton for very long. That will help Oregon out as the opening at Florida State is very attractive and there are sure to be some very interested parties.
As for the 'what if he leaves' questions. I have heard some stuff on that - as in Oregon brass has been preparing for the potential that Taggart leaves and, like any good athletic director, Rob Mullens has a short list of candidates in mind should a search become necessary.
The good news is, nothing I have heard today makes me change the belief that Taggart is not leaving. If ever there was a good time for both Florida and Florida State to open, it was after Taggart's first season in Eugene.