Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Focused on Birmingham Bowl, Bulls Search For New Head Coach

Willie Taggart Headed for Oregon

TAMPA, Fla. – The University of South Florida will immediately begin a national search for a new head football coach following the resignation of Willie Taggart after a record-breaking season.

The 10-2 Bulls posted program records with 10 regular season wins and seven conference victories. USF finished the regular season in the Top 25 rankings for the second time in program history.

“We are pleased to announce that T.J. Weist, one of our co-offensive coordinators, will be our interim football coach for the rest of the 2016 season,” said USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan.

Weist and South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp met with media Thursday at the Birmingham Bowl Introductory Press Conference held at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Ala.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here representing the University of South Florida,” Weist told the gathered media. “We have a great university and a great program that’s on the rise. We set a bunch of school records this year, almost every record that we can, especially on offense. We have 10 wins and are looking for our 11th win.”

Weist will lead the No. 22/25-ranked Bulls (10-2; 7-1 AAC) into the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Dec. 29. The Bulls are completing finals this week and are expected to begin bowl practices beginning Sunday, Dec. 11 on the USF campus.

Weist, who previously served as interim head coach for UConn for the final eight games of the 2013 season, has helped lead the record-breaking USF offense as co-offensive coordinator. USF’s offense ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing (291.8 ypc), No. 7 in scoring (43.6 ppg) and No. 10 in total offense (515.1 ypg) while setting 33 program team and individual records this season.

“Our guys have great confidence in each other and their playmaking ability, their ability to execute the offense, and to adjust to the defense that they give us, “ Weist said. “It’s going to be a big challenge. This is going to be one of the best defenses we’ve faced. Not necessarily statistically, but the mentality Coach Muschamp brings – from a toughness standpoint, from a competitive standpoint.”

American Conference Offensive Player of the Year Quinton Flowers will be among a program-record 10 all-conference honorees that will lead the Bulls vs. the Gamecocks (6-6; 3-5 SEC). Flowers finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 in the nation in nine offensive categories and set new USF season records for total offense (3,976 yards), rushing yards (1,425), rushing touchdowns (15), total touchdowns (37) and 300-yard total offense games (8).

“(Coach Taggart) and I were together for a long time, so we do some things similarly,” Weist said. “I do think I’ll add some things to it, but I’ll do a lot of things that he did. I liked his aggressive attitude overall, so I’m going to continue a lot of those things, because we’ve won. It’s been a good formula. We’re not going to change much.”

The Bulls will compete in the program’s eighth bowl game in just its 16th season of FBS football. The Bulls are 4-3 in their previous seven bowl trips. This will be USF’s second trip to Birmingham to play a bowl game.

The Bulls downed East Carolina, 24-7, for the program’s first-ever bowl victory in the 2006 PapaJohns.com Bowl at Legion Field.

“We are very proud of our record-setting football season,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “We now have the foundation of our football program in place. We have a terrific group of student athletes who are laser-focused on the Birmingham Bowl and next year’s season. We wish Coach Taggart well.”