Mullens ‘disappointed’ with Taggart’s exit as the search for Oregon’s next head coach begins

For the second time in as many years, Oregon is searching for a new head football coach.

In the wake of Willie Taggart’s departure for Florida State, which became official on Tuesday, Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens held a press conference to discuss Taggart’s exit and where Oregon’s football program would go from there.

Mullens said he was “disappointed” in Taggart’s choice to leave the program after only one season.

“We sat down a year ago and we made a commitment to him. He made a commitment to us,” Mullens said. “We did everything to support our commitment to get here today, and I’m disappointed.”

Mullens confirmed the report that Oregon did offer Taggart a contract extension — the offer was for $20 million over five years, up from his original contract of $16 million over the same span — before the Civil War on Nov. 25 and that Oregon and Taggart had remained in contract talks up until yesterday. Taggart rejected Oregon’s offer, instead electing to accept Florida State’s reported offer of $30 million over six years.

According to Mullens, Florida State initially contacted Oregon on Thursday to inform Mullens that they were going to “reach out” to Taggart. Taggart called Mullens later that day to inform him that Florida had done so.

On Friday, and then again on Sunday, Taggart told the media that he and Florida State were not in contact. Mullen’s’ statement on Tuesday contradicts that.

Taggart then hit the road on Sunday night for a week of recruiting. He was in Arizona on Monday, when he reportedly met with Florida State officials. Multiple reports surfaced on Monday saying that Taggart had accepted Florida State’s offer, but none were confirmed.

That changed on Tuesday when Taggart flew back to Eugene and called a team meeting, where he told the Ducks he would be leaving for the Florida State job. Shortly before meeting with the team, he met with Mullens and informed Oregon’s AD of his decision.

“We met and he said, ‘This is a family decision, it pulls at my heartstrings, and I feel like I gotta got be the head coach at Florida State,’” Mullens said.

Multiple reports also surfaced on Tuesday that defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt would accompany Taggart to Florida State, but Mullens refuted those claims.

“No one has mentioned that to us,” Mullens said. “Willie said, the only thing that we talked about was that the staff would remain intact until December 16 so that these kids could enjoy the fruits of their labor during the year and be rewarded with a bowl game. No one has mentioned anything to me about Florida State and Jim.”

Co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal was named the interim head coach. While many believe that he is a legitimate candidate to fill that position in a full-time role, Oregon will proceed with its second coaching search in two years.

Mullens said that while he doesn’t have a timeline for when he wants to name a new head coach, the search is already underway. He said that Oregon would use the same search firm it employed last year that netted Taggart for the Ducks.

“We’ll be very thorough, and we’ll make sure we find the next great leader for Oregon football,” Mullens said.

As far as what Oregon is looking for in its next head coach, Mullens said that the program wants to try to replicate what this year’s staff created.

“These are hard jobs,” he said, “and what we’ve seen is the energy of this staff, and what it means on the recruiting trail, what it means inside this building and what it means in the community and we wanted somebody who can replicate that.”


Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris

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Gus Morris

Gus Morris

Gus Morris covers Oregon football, basketball and women's golf for the Emerald. Caffeine addict. Bay Area sports. I know words, I have the best words.