Football

Optimism high as Taggart takes over at WKU

Coach Willie Taggart, an All-America quarterback at Western in 1998, has returned to his alma mater to help turn around a program that went 0-12 last season, its first in Division I-A.
Coach Willie Taggart, an All-America quarterback at Western in 1998, has returned to his alma mater to help turn around a program that went 0-12 last season, its first in Division I-A. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Willie Taggart's number of head coaching wins last season tied Western Kentucky's total.

Zero.

The running backs coach at Stanford the past three years, Taggart is back with his alma mater and intent on changing course from WKU's 0-12 debut as a Division I-A program.

Taggart says WKU will "compete, no matter what the situation is. Like I told our team, 'Our goal this year is to get better every single game and win our conference.' That's our expectation and what we're going to be about. I think you'll see a team that's hungry and full of energy."

One of four players to have his number retired by Western, Taggart set 11 school records and started at quarterback for four years. An All-American as a senior in 1998, he also was the Offensive Player of the Year that season for I-AA independents.

His coaching résumé includes eight (winning) years — 1999-2006 — with the Hilltoppers, working with receivers, quarterbacks, as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

He knows about turning programs around, having joined Stanford after a 1-11 season in 2006. The Cardinal went 8-4 last season, leading the Pac-10 in total offense and ranking 11th in the nation in rushing offense.

"That was a great experience, which gets me optimistic about our football team here," he said. "Just some of the things we want to do, there's a lot of similarities."

Although he obviously knows offense, that's not Taggart's first priority as boss.

"First and foremost, I don't care what team it is, I think you've got to have a really solid defense," he said. "We're going to try to put our better players on defense. I think defense wins championships and we've got to stop people."

On offense, "You'll see us be creative and try to think outside of the box a little bit, but play some sound football. We'd like to be balanced — 50-50 if we can. But it's all dictated by how the game's going."

With his first job as head coach, at his alma mater and overcoming barriers that have kept the number of African-American I-A head coaches disproportionately low, Taggart has much in which to take pride.

"Most important is that I'm representing this university," he said. "I just feel Western's done so much for me personally. I tell everyone to this day, 'Everything about me, WKU has something to do with it.' So that's first and foremost: I want to get us back to where we belong.

"The race part doesn't matter to me at all. To be honest with you, I just hope that one day we get to where (we're) all coaches and, at the end of the day, we've just got to win ball games. ... First head coaching job? I figured it was going to happen one day. It's my first; it could be my last. But I'll keep working hard to see that it's not my last and, hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling."

  Comments