WKU head football coach Willie Taggart is leaving the school to become the coach at the University of South Florida. Taggart is a Florida native who has been an ace Sunshine State recruiter for the Hilltoppers.
Taggart broke the news to his players after Friday's practice, and then boarded a plane that night for Florida.
At a Saturday morning news conference athletic director Todd Stewart said he, like everyone, had been hearing rumors for weeks about Taggert's future and said he really wasn't surprised given what he called the current landscape of college football.
"I was optimistic that he would stay here because of the financial package we could offer him and because, as he has frequently said, WKU is in his DNA," Stewart said, "After more than doubling his salary a year ago, we were prepared to offer him a much better contract than he even had this year but there are some ties to Florida that obviously weight heavily into the situation."
Hilltopper's tight end, senior Jack Doyle, said the team was initially shocked at the news but Stewart spoke to the players early Saturday morning.
"One thing he said was 'Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react,'" Doyle said. "So it's up to these seniors to get this team right and get them to react the right way. We've been through so much as seniors the past 4-5 years here so there's nothing that can really divide us now."
WKU defensive coordinator Lance Guidry was named interim head coach while the search for a permanent head coach is underway.
WKU will play Dec. 26 in the Little Caesar's Bowl vs. Central Michigan. The Toppers went 7-5 on the season, including wins against Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, and Sun Belt Conference champ Arkansas State.
Taggert had been earning a base salary of $425,000 a year at WKU. South Florida paid their last head coach $2 million annually. Taggert must pay WKU a $500,000 buyout.
Riding its second five-game winning streak in the last 17 games, WKU welcomes IUPUI to E.A. Diddle Arena Saturday afternoon at 3:00 for a non-conference matchup.
The Hilltoppers, off to their best start to a season since 2007-08 at 7-2, have won nine-straight home games and will look to make it an even 10 against the Jaguars before taking next week off from games for final examinations. From there, WKU hits the road for three games at Murray State, VCU and against Louisville in Nashville to wrap up the non-conference schedule.
WKU used an impressive defensive effort and a strong showing from sophomore Chastity Gooch to post a 62-38 win over Morehead State at the Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Thursday night.
WKU improved to 4-0 on the road in 2012-13 after recording a combined five road wins over the last two seasons. WKU has recorded multiple non-conference wins on the road for the first time since 2009-10 when they recorded three.
Southern Illinois trimmed the WKU lead to one point on four different occasions in the final 5:00 of the game Wednesday night, but WKU kept the Salukis at bay and never trailed in a 58-57 win at E.A. Diddle Arena. When a Desmar Jackson three-pointer missed at the buzzer, WKU moved to 7-2 on the season with the victory.
The win was WKU's ninth-straight at E.A. Diddle Arena and 14th in the last 17 games overall. With the win, WKU matches its best start to a season since the 2007-08 team also began the campaign with a 7-2 record.
WKU is riding the momentum of back-to-back Sun Belt road wins as the Hilltoppers prepare for a non-conference matchup with regional rival Southern Illinois Wednesday night. WKU brings a four-game winning streak and an eight-game home winning streak into the game with the Salukis, and Wednesday’s game marks the seventh-straight season WKU and the Salukis have squared off on the hardwood.
WKU has won each of the last two meetings overall and the last two that were contested in Bowling Green.
WKU has won six-of-seven overall after losing the season opener at Southern Miss, and after the game against Southern Illinois the Hilltoppers have four games remaining in the non-conference portion of the 2012-13 schedule.
A grand opening is planned this week for the Western Kentucky University Student Business Accelerator, a 1,200-square-foot space to give students a chance to start a business while they're still in college. The space is in the Center for Research and Development in Bowling Green, and the grand opening is set for 3 p.m. CST Tuesday.
For the first time since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Western Kentucky University football team will play in a postseason bowl. After a 7-5 regular season, WKU formally accepted an invitation Sunday to play on Dec. 26 in Detroit in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Hilltoppers will square off against Central Michigan at 6:30 p.m. (CST) at Ford Field on ESPN.
The WKU men's basketball team erased a 13-point second-half deficit Saturday night at Troy and moved to 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play for the first time in three seasons with a 75-71 win over the Trojans. The Hilltoppers improved to 6-2 on the season.
WKU finishes a stretch of four of five away from home Saturday night at 7:30 when it takes on Troy at the brand-new Trojan Arena, which opened prior to the 2012-13 season. The Hilltoppers started the Sun Belt Conference schedule with a win Thursday night at ULM behind T.J. Price’s career high 30 points, giving the Hilltoppers their fifth win in the last six conference openers and snapping a three-game Sun Belt Conference road losing streak.
WKU President Gary Ransdell and Athletic Director Todd Stewart have issued a joint statement Wednesday in response to questions regarding WKU's future athletic conference. Another round of conference realignment kicked off this week when Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and Rutgers said it was leaving the Big East for the Big 10.