Former WKU coach Jack Harbaugh comments on Willie Taggart’s departure

Willie Taggart has officially headed for South Florida, and both he and Western Kentucky are getting ready to begin their next chapters.

Be sure to check out BGDN beat writer Chad Bishop’s blog at toppatime.wordpress.com for reaction from WKU athletic director Todd Stewart, interim coach Lance Guidry and seniors Jack Doyle and Jamarcus Allen.

Elsewhere, I had the chance to talk with former WKU coach Jack Harbaugh by phone this morning about Taggart’s decision and the Hilltoppers’ future.

If there are any folks not totally aware of the relationship between Taggart and the Harbaugh family, including Jack’s NFL coach sons Jim and John, check out this story I wrote as a WKU student two years ago for the College Heights Herald.

Harbaugh said he talked with Taggart through the latter’s decision to accept the USF position, and that he hopes WKU will find some consistency as it tries to continue to reach new levels. Here are his thoughts:

JACK HARBAUGH

What are your thoughts on Willie’s next opportunity?

“It’s part of the coaching journey that so many of us have taken. I look back on my career and the opportunities. (Former WKU) coach (Jimmy) Feix stayed at a university for 60-something years, and I have so much respect for that. But today, with the opportunities that are presented for your family, those are decisions that you have to make.”

Did he consult with you during his decision?

“I know it was a tough decision for Willie. We talked two or three times over the process. It was a tough decision to leave a place that’s home, but in a sense to head to another place that’s home.”

As someone you’ve called another son, how do you feel about Taggart getting this kind of recognition?

“Willie is a part of our family since 1993, when we started to recruit him. He played a huge role for us, and those were signature years for us. I coached for 43 years, and those were signature years – how it changed momentum of the program. His wife, Taneshia, is a fantastic person, mother and wife, and their two boys, to be around little Will and Jackson is a treat every time. They’re a significant part of our family.”

What do you think he brings to the USF job?

“He’s obviously done a terrific job in recruiting, especially Florida, so I’m sure that will continue to be a strength. But you can’t overlook his knowledge of the offense. He ran the entire offense for us in our championship season. He made every offensive call during that 2002 year, and the success we had that year he’s largely responsible for.”

What does WKU need from its next coach?

“It needs consistency and continuity. Western Kentucky, right now, is in a much, much better place than it’s been for a long time. (WKU president) Dr. (Gary) Ransdell gets tremendous credit for that for taking the program to the next level, and I think Willie Taggart gets a lot of credit for that as well. He was the right man at the right time to make the transition.

“The next man that comes will have that same opportunity to take it even to the next level. Consistency is so important, and I’m sure whomever that coach is will know exactly what his mandate is going to be and the challenges that lie ahead.”

Any thoughts on WKU making its first bowl game at the FBS level?

“When we look back on the history, I think it’ll be a shining moment. The program is in a place now that we all believed and trusted it could be.”

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