'Respect the decision 100% but leaving us clueless was messed up': Players, recruits react
Less than a year after Willie Taggart inspired the Ducks with his tagline "Do Something," Oregon is searching for a new head coach.
Oregon's players were summoned to a meeting at the team's football complex early Tuesday afternoon for the announcement that Taggart had accepted the head coaching job at Florida State.
Senior cornerback Ty Griffin posted to Twitter the words "He gone" with a smoke puff emoji.
Meanwhile, some recruits were grumbling about how the move was handled. Tigard High School's Bradan Lenzy decommitted.
Eli'Jah Winston, a senior outside lineman from Portland's Central Catholic, posted to Twitter: "I didn't know it would've been handled so ugly. Respect the decision 100% but leaving us clueless was messed up."
It will be Taggart's third program in three seasons. He replaces Jimbo Fisher, who took the job at Texas A&M. Taggart was officially coach of the Ducks for 363 days.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was named interim head coach. The Ducks play Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16.
"We thank Willie for his efforts at Oregon, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement. "I am grateful to Mario Cristobal for his willingness to step up and lead our program through our upcoming bowl game. The University of Oregon is a high-caliber academic institution with one of the premier college football programs in the country, and we are confident that we will find another outstanding coach to lead our tremendous group of student-athletes into the future."
Taggart was hired by Oregon last December to take over after the team went 4-8 under Mark Helfrich, who was fired three days after a season-ending 34-24 loss to rival Oregon State in the 2016 Civil War.
The 41-year-old Florida native had a reputation as a rebuilder. He arrived in Eugene after four years at South Florida, where he guided the Bulls from a 2-10 record his first year to a 10-2 mark last year and a spot in the Birmingham Bowl.
Before that he spent three seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, inheriting a winless program that he turned around with back-to-back winning seasons.
When Taggart was hired by Oregon, he said he had three basic tenets: "Make no excuses, blame no one, do something."
"Do Something" became his tagline for his first season with the Ducks.
One of his first moves was to convince running back Royce Freeman to stay for his senior year.
Freeman went on to have a record-setting season, including a new Pac-12 career milestone for rushing touchdowns with 60. The sturdy senior also set school records for career rushing yards (5,621), total touchdowns (64) and 100-yard rushing games (31).
But the season itself was erratic, partly because of a key injury.
Oregon started 4-1 and even briefly popped into the AP rankings, but starting quarterback Justin Herbert broke his collarbone and the Ducks floundered, going 1-4 without him.
Herbert returned for the final two games of the season, both wins that got the Ducks into a bowl game in Taggart's lone season.
Mullins said Oregon has launched a nationwide search for a new head coach.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25