The Ducks fired Mark Helfrich after four seasons at which time the search was commenced. Oregon finished the season 4-8, the first time it has finished a season with a losing record and without a bowl appearance since 2004. The move comes just two years after Mr. Helfrich got the Ducks within a victory of the program’s first national championship.
First African American Head Coach
Athletic director Rob Mullens had to interview at least one minority candidate to comply with state law. In 2009, Oregon became the first state to adopt a law — similar to the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” — that requires all public universities to interview a minority candidate for every open head coaching job.
Laurie Wilder, the search firm’s president, said she targeted “high-profile” candidates. The school asked the firm to look at a broad, diverse pool of potential leaders that would embrace the student-athlete experience and understand the expectations at the university.
Mr. Taggart coached South Florida to a school record 10-2 regular season mark this fall, three years after the Bulls went 2-10. He will be the 33rd head coach in Oregon football history, and will have the distinction of being the football program’s first African American head coach.
He began his coaching career as an assistant with Western Kentucky 1999-2006. He then spent three seasons as an assistant to Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09, coaching running backs and helping Toby Gerhart win the 2009 Doak Walker Award. Mr. Taggart returned to Western Kentucky as head coach in 2010, taking over a program that had lost 20 straight games and leading the team to their first bowl bid in 2012.
“Willie places an emphasis on ensuring a positive student-athlete experience and on winning, and his previous stops have proven his success at both,” said Mr. Mullens. “We have a very bright future under his leadership.”
“I want to congratulate Willie on becoming the University of Oregon’s next head football coach, and welcome him and his family to the flock,” UO president and professor of law Michael H. Schill said. “I am confident that Coach Taggart fits with the UO’s values and culture of excellence as it relates to supporting our student-athletes’ personal growth and success both on and off the playing field.”
“I am grateful for the trust that president Michael Schill and Rob Mullens have put in me to be the next head coach of the Oregon football program, and I thank them for the opportunity,” Mr. Taggart said. “Oregon has a strong national presence and a proud recent history of playing among the nation’s elite, and I look forward to the challenge of upholding the excellence. I can’t wait to get started.”
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges & universities, and collegiate athletics. Its sports practice represents clients conducting searches for positions ranging from president/CEO, EVP/SVP/general manager, and executive director to conference commissioner, athletic director, head coach, and assistant coach, among others.
Parker’s sports practice has worked with a wide range of schools, including Notre Dame; Dartmouth; the University of Chicago; Villanova; Iowa State; Fordham; and the University of Central Florida, among others.
The firm recently recruited David Benedict as athletic director at the University of Connecticut. It also placed Mark Jackson as director of athletics at Villanova University as well as Jennifer Cohen as the new AD of the University of Washington (UW). A UW spokesperson said the school paid the search firm $105,000 for its role in generating leading candidates and seeing the search process through to completion.
Hiring and Firing Activity to Rise
As the college football season comes to an end for teams not competing in the post season, expect to see a lot of firing and hiring activity among coaches. And schools are expected to continue to turn search firms to fill the resulting vacancies.
Just last week, DHR International recruited Jeff Brohm as head football coach for Purdue. He becomes the 36th head coach in program history. The search was led by DHR managing partner and global sports practice leader Glenn Sugiyama. DHR’s sports practice is a global specialty for the firm with capabilities that serve clients in six continents across all sports-related organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams to public and private university athletics squads. The firm has handled a number searches for schools including the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, Fresno State University, San Jose State, Kansas, Syracuse and Quinnipiac University.
The University of Delaware retained Korn Ferry recently to lead its search for a new head coach for its football team. The search is being led by Jed Hughes, vice chairman of Korn Ferry’s sports recruiting practice. Dave Brock, who coached Delaware to a 19-22 record, was fired earlier in October. Mr. Hughes’ highest profile placements include New York Jets GM John Idzik; Mark Murphy, CEO of the Green Bay Packers; Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12; Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12; and Dave Brandon and Jim Harbaugh, the athletic director and the head football coach of the Michigan Wolverines, respectively.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media