Tag­gart chooses to travel the high road

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND -

Wil­lie Tag­gart is much nicer and less vin­dic­tive than most of us would be if we were fired from our dream job be­fore we ever re­ally had a chance to do our dream job.

When I asked the new FAU coach ear­lier this week why he has not crit­i­cized FSU for pulling the plug on him af­ter only a yearand-a-half, Tag­gart an­swered with class and grace and even gave his bless­ing to new Semi­noles coach Mike Norvell:

“No need to be bitter,” Tag­gart said dur­ing an in­ter­view on my Open Mike ra­dio show. “I don’t get bitter. I just try to do the best job I can and con­trol the things I can con­trol. That’s my at­ti­tude. … You have to un­der­stand there are some things you can’t con­trol, so there’s no need to be bitter about them. … Coach Norvell will do a great job there. … I wish Florida State the best of luck and they still have a fan in Coach Tag­gart.”

When I asked Tag­gart if he would have ever left Ore­gon if he’d known he would only get a year-and-a-half to turn around the FSU pro­gram, he replied: “If we could pre­dict the fu­ture, we wouldn’t have any ad­ver­sity at all. I don’t take back the de­ci­sion I made to go there [to FSU]. We wanted to get it right and un­for­tu­nately it didn’t go the way we wanted it to when we wanted it to.”

Per­haps one rea­son Tag­gart isn’t overly an­gry is be­cause of the $18 mil­lion buy­out he is get­ting from FSU. When I quizzed him on how that buy­out money is dis­trib­uted — “Do you get it one big lump sum?” — Tag­gart sim­ply said, “Just put it this way: I get it.”

Many of us would prob­a­bly have taken a year or two off if some­body were pay­ing us nearly $20 mil­lion not to work, but Tag­gart said he isn’t built that way. He spent some time with his wife and kids af­ter be­ing fired by FSU, but he knew quickly it was time to look for another coach­ing job. And when Lane Kif­fin left for Ole Miss, Tag­gart said the FAU op­por­tu­nity was “too good to pass up.”

“I had peo­ple ask me, ‘Why would you work again?’ ” Tag­gart said of the pos­si­bil­ity of kick­ing back, re­lax­ing and liv­ing on the FSU buy­out. “You don’t sit around and think about the money you have. It’s great to be able to sup­port your fam­ily and all, but coach­ing and men­tor­ing and chang­ing lives is what I do. That’s my call­ing and I’m ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to do that at a place like FAU.”

For the first time in his ca­reer, Tag­gart is tak­ing over a pro­gram that’s ac­tu­ally in good shape. FAU has won two conference ti­tles in the last three years, has a nice on-cam­pus sta­dium and is get­ting ready to move into its new foot­ball fa­cil­ity.

“This is a pro­gram that’s win­ning and un­der­stands what it takes to win,” Tag­gart said. “That’s to­tally dif­fer­ent than any pro­gram I’ve ever taken over. We have a nice sta­dium, the new

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