Wednesday's college football: FAU hires Willie Taggart as coach

Tim Reynolds
Associated Press

Willie Taggart has another chance, and Florida Atlantic’s search for Lane Kiffin’s replacement is over.

Taggart was hired by FAU on Wednesday, a week before the early signing day and only four days after Kiffin left the Owls for Mississippi.

Former Florida State coach Willie Taggart has been hired as the new coach at FAU.

“I’m looking forward to long-term success here,” Taggart said in a statement distributed by the university Wednesday night. “I think our players and the university deserve that commitment.”

FAU said it was a five-year contract. The school did not immediately disclose financial terms.

Kiffin was 26-13 in three seasons at FAU, winning two Conference USA championships and breathing new life into a moribund program before leaving last week to take over at Mississippi. His hiring in 2016 was a splashy one, after past stints as a head coach – at Tennessee and with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders – didn’t work out as he hoped.

Taggart could use a similar resume revival. He’s been to one bowl game in 10 seasons as a head coach, with a 56-62 record. Florida State fired him in November after a 27-10 loss to Miami.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well.”

Taggart is the fourth prominent coach who was at a Power Five school this season, got fired and then found his next opportunity relatively quickly.

Chad Morris was fired at Arkansas, then hired as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Matt Luke was fired at Ole Miss, then got hired as associate head coach at Georgia. Steve Addazio, who was at Boston College, was hired Wednesday at Colorado State.

And now Taggart is at FAU, which will be his fourth school in less than four years.

He was at South Florida from 2013 through 2016, then Oregon in 2017, Florida State for the last two seasons and now takes over as Kiffin’s replacement with about a week left until early signing day.

Taggart started his career as a head coach at Western Kentucky, going 16-20 in three seasons. He was 24-25 in four seasons at USF, 7-5 in his lone season at Oregon and 9-12 in parts of two seasons at Florida State.

Nebraska players accused

Two former University of Nebraska football players accused in connection with the sexual assault of a 19-year-old fellow student were set to be released from jail  after a judge allowed them to post bond, and attorneys for both men said they intend to fight the allegations.

Katerian LeGrone, 19, and Andre Hunt, 20, appeared in court one day after police arrested them at their Lincoln apartment. LaGrone was being held on suspicion of first-degree sexual assault, while Hunt faces allegations of aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault for the Aug. 25 incident at their apartment.

Prosecutors haven’t formally charged either man and were still reviewing a university-led Title IX investigation, which concluded LaGrone and Hunt had violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy. The university suspended them for 2½ years, a decision that both men appealed shortly before they were arrested.

The redshirt freshmen were also suspended indefinitely from all team activities shortly after the reported incident with the woman. The school confirmed  that the players are no longer on the roster.

Extra points

Colorado State has hired Steve Addazio as its head football coach. Addazio, 60, wasn’t out of work long after being fired by Boston College on Dec. 1. He was 44-44 in seven seasons with the Eagles.

... Northwestern hired Boston College’s Mike Bajakian as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Bajakian, who spent four seasons at quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, spent last year as OC and QBs coach for Boston College, which boasted the top rushing attack in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He’s also a former coach at Central Michigan and Michigan.

In nine seasons as a college offensive coordinator, Bajakian’s offenses have averaged 424 yards and 31.3 points per game.

... UNLV has hired Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo as its next head football coach.

Arroyo will succeed Tony Sanchez, who was fired Nov. 25 after going 19-40 in five seasons.

The 39-year-old Arroyo led an Oregon offense that was 15th nationally in scoring this season and he helped the Ducks land the Pac-12’s top-ranked recruiting class the past two seasons.

... Liberty University and first-year football coach Hugh Freeze have agreed to a new multiyear contract extension.

Freeze guided the Flames to a 7-5 record and a spot in the Cure Bowl, their first bowl game, in their first year eligible at the FBS level. The Flames will face play Georgia Southern (7-5) on Dec. 21 in Orlando, Florida.

... Arizona State junior running back Eno Benjamin declared for the 2020 NFL draft. Benjamin is top 10 on Arizona State’s career list in rushing yards, touchdowns, attempts and 100-yard games. Benjamin is not expected to play in the Sun Bowl against Florida State on Dec. 31.