Coach Search 2017: Calm after the storm
363 days. Not even 365. That’s how long the “Do Something” era lasted at Oregon. After days of dodging, deflecting and outright deceptions, “Why wouldn’t I be?” the coach next year answered itself. First year Duck head coach Willie Taggart, following a hastily called Tuesday afternoon team meeting, chartered east towards the sweet cash of the Sunshine State.
Taggart parlayed his eighth-place Pac-12 finish into a Florida State offer of $30 million over six years. It was more than Oregon felt it was worth to retain him.
And try they did.
“We have been in plenty of conversations the last five days,” said Oregon athletic Director Rob Mullens at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “There was a contract extension offer before the Civil War and substantive contract negotiations up through yesterday.”
But it was not about money. Though his salary did bump up by a couple million dollars a year, it was about family. Or at least that is what Mullens said he told him when he called to quit. For his part, Taggart left to join his fourth team in five years without comment.
In general, Duck fans, players and recruits met the news with varying degrees of a sense of betrayal. While most understand that ultimately to some people college football is pure business, the promises and words of building something special in Eugene that Taggart had made over the last 11 months were not met, and they took to social media to respond.
When Chip Kelly left for Philadelphia, most Duck fans gave him a heroes’ sendoff. In fact, many became Eagles fans based upon the same principles everybody in Eugene is a Titans fan.
That will not be the case with Taggart or Florida State. The two teams may never meet again in our lifetimes, but the boo birds would be out in force were it to happen during how ever many years he is coaching in Tallahassee. Duck fans will have nothing left to hold on to aside from the last time the two teams met, in the 2015 Rose Bowl.
Cristobal in the interim
Mullens decided to give Mario Cristobal the reins of the program, at least through the Las Vegas Bowl. The co-OC/OL coach has six season of head coaching experience under his belt from 2006 to 2012 at Florida International.
There is substantial support from the team and fan base for giving Cristobal the head job on a full-time basis and that may happen. But the Ducks are going to do a complete coaching search, as would be expected. He will certainly be included in the search.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is another prime candidate for the permanent head coach job. He has made it abundantly clear that position, somewhere, is his personal goal. He too has HC experience with 14 years in the position at South Florida, amassing a 95-57 record during that time.
Bear in mind, Leavitt is not actually a candidate if you believe Twitter. That is because several tweeters have claimed that he is following Taggart to Florida State. If he is, that is news to Mullens.
“No one has mentioned that to us,” Mullens confirmed on Tuesday. “The staff would remain intact until Dec. 16th. Nobody has mentioned anything to me about Florida State and Jim.”
Leavitt himself chimed in before heading to bed Tuesday night.
Don't always believe what you read. You know that. Have a good night— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) December 6, 2017
All this is key because December 16th happens to be the Las Vegas Bowl, where Cristobal and Leavitt will lead their charges against Boise State. Interestingly, four days after that is early LOI day, and any recruiting they do in the meantime will be on behalf of Oregon.
Of course, it's possible those Twitter pundits were wrong, and Mullens will be able to retain both Cristobal and Leavitt on staff.
All that is for another day, and that day is coming soon. Stick with Duck Sports Authority as we keep you up to date on the latest on the coaching search, as well as the actual football team as Oregon prepares for their Las Vegas Bowl bid against the Broncos.