The University of South Florida has hired Western Kentucky's Willie Taggart as its new head football coach.
Taggart coached WKU to a record of 16-20 over the previous three seasons, including a 7-5 mark this year. The Hilltoppers will play Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26.
Western Kentucky director of athletics Todd Stewart announced that defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will take over as the interim head coach and will lead the Hilltoppers in the bowl game.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed that Coach Taggart will no longer be our head football coach," Stewart said. "He did a tremendous job for WKU - inheriting a program with a 20-game losing streak before posting back to back 7-5 records in his second and third seasons. We had a landmark win in Lexington over the University of Kentucky, and we were the only Sun Belt Conference school to defeat Arkansas State. And, as everyone knows, this past Sunday our program earned our first ever bowl appearance as a Football Bowl Subdivision member."
This marks a return to the Tampa area for Taggart. A former quarterback at WKU, Taggart was a prep standout at Manatee High School in Bradenton.
Prior to his time at WKU, Taggart was the running backs coach at Stanford from 2007-09. He also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at WKU from 1999-2006.
Taggart replaces Skip Holtz, who was fired last Sunday. The Bulls completed the 2012 campaign, their third under Holtz's direction, with a 3-9 record. South Florida went just 5-16 in Big East play and 16-21 overall during Holtz's tenure, which began in January of 2010 after the university hired the 48-year- old following a successful five-year stint with East Carolina.
"I always said I wouldn't leave WKU unless I had a chance to go and win a national championship, and I truly believe that can be done here," Taggart said. "It wasn't long ago USF was No. 2 in the country. It's been proven that we can get there. What we have to do now is put everybody on the bus, put 'em in the right seat and let coach T drive this bus!"