Oh, the places they’ve gone: Former WKU head coaches land across the map

WKU head coach Willie Taggart is doused with the powerade bucket after WKU’s win over the University of Kentucky. WKU won over UK in overtime with a final score of 32-31 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington on Sep. 15, 2012.

Drake Kizer

As the years have gone by on the Hill, the faces at the helm of WKU’s athletic programs have seldom stayed the same.

Travis Hudson and Jason Neidell — the head coaches of the WKU volleyball and women’s soccer teams, respectively — are outliers in the Division I coaching ranks.

Hudson has built the Lady Topper volleyball program into a perennial contender on the national stage since he took over in 1995, while Neidell has been the strategist behind over 200 WKU victories on the pitch since the university established its women’s soccer program in 2001.

While Hudson and Neidell have continued to reap what they’ve sown over the years at WKU, other head coaches on the Hill have come and gone. Some coaches have been lured away by other universities after showing promise at WKU. Others have resigned or been fired.

Years later, former Hilltopper and Lady Topper head coaches have landed all over the country and taken on all sorts of different roles. Here are updates on what many ex-WKU coaches have been up to since their respective tenures in Bowling Green came to an end.

David Elson

Then: WKU football head coach (2003–2009)

Now: Ball State football defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach (2017-present)

Notes: Has coached in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision and Kentucky High School Athletic Association since being fired from WKU on Nov. 9, 2009.

Willie Taggart

Then: WKU football head coach (2010–2012)

Now: Unemployed college football head coach

Notes: Posted a combined 40-42 mark at South Florida, Oregon and Florida State since leaving WKU. He was fired by FSU on Nov. 3 after a 9-12 start, but he’s still owed nearly $20 million.

Bobby Petrino

Then: WKU football head coach (2013)

Now: Unemployed college football head coach

Notes: Left WKU after one season for a second tenure at Louisville, where he improved his record as head coach of the Cardinals to 77-35 before being fired on Nov. 11, 2018.

Jeff Brohm

Then: WKU football head coach (2014–2016)

Now: Purdue football head coach (2017–present)

Notes: Departed WKU for Purdue and has posted a 17–19 record. He’s scheduled to make $6.6 million in total pay this year — eighth among FBS head coaches.

Mike Sanford Jr.

Then: WKU football head coach (20172018)

Now: Utah State football offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2019–present)

Notes: “One of college football’s brightest offensive minds,” according to his Aggies bio page, but WKU was ranked 118th in points and 103rd in total offense per game in 2018.

Dennis Felton

Then: WKU men’s basketball head coach (1999–2003)

Now: Fordham men’s basketball assistant coach (2019–present)

Notes: Left WKU for Georgia, where he compiled an 84-91 record. Fired by Cleveland State on July 12 after posting a combined 22-44 record during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons there.

Darrin Horn

Then: WKU men’s basketball head coach (2004–2008)

Now: Northern Kentucky men’s basketball head coach (2019–present)

Notes: Departed WKU for South Carolina, where he was fired on March 13, 2012, after posting a 60-63 overall record from 2008-09 to 2011-12. Spent four years as an assistant at Texas.

Ken McDonald

Then: WKU men’s basketball head coach (2009–2012)

Now: Unemployed men’s basketball assistant coach

Notes: Spent the 2018-19 season as an assistant coach at Tulsa.

Ray Harper

Then: WKU men’s basketball head coach (2012–2016)

Now: Jacksonville State men’s basketball head coach (2016–present)

Notes: Mentioned in a lawsuit alongside former WKU and JSU men’s basketball player Marlon Hunter on Oct. 11. Alleges Hunter was expelled from WKU over “sexual misconduct,” and that JSU covered up a sexual assault committed by Hunter. Neither of them have been charged with a crime relating to these allegations, and Harper and Hunter aren’t defendants in the lawsuit.

Mary Taylor Cowles

Then: WKU women’s basketball head coach (2003–2012)

Now: Head girls’ basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Ensworth School in Nashville (2015– present)

Notes: Won the Division II Class AA State Girls’ Basketball Tournament in 2017 and 2019.

Michelle Clark-Heard

Then: WKU women’s basketball head coach (20132018)

Now: Cincinnati women’s basketball head coach (2018–present)

Notes: Left WKU for Cincinnati, posting a 24-11 record in her first season with the Bearcats.

Joel Murrie

Then: WKU baseball head coach (1980–2005)

Now: Scout for the Los Angeles Angels (2006–present)

Notes: Retired from WKU in 2005 after posting an 815-656-4 record in 26 seasons as baseball head coach. Has held various scouting positions for the Angels and signed Matt Shoemaker.

Chris Finwood

Then: WKU baseball head coach (2006–2011)

Now: Old Dominion baseball head coach (2012–present)

Notes: Departed WKU for ODU and has produced 14 MLB Draft selections, three All-Americans, six Freshman All-Americans, 19 all-conference selections and a 231-216 overall record there.

Matt Myers

Then: WKU baseball head coach (20122015)

Now: UNC-Wilmington baseball pitching coach (2019–present)

Notes: Led Bowling Green High School to a 45-25 record as head coach in 2017 and 2018.

Rachel Lawson

Then: WKU softball head coach (2005–2007)

Now: Kentucky softball head coach (2008–current)

Notes: Left WKU and became the winningest head coach in program history at UK. She’s led the Wildcats to their first-ever appearance in the Women’s College World Series, numerous appearances in the NCAA Super Regionals and a program-best 50 wins in 2014.

Tyra Perry

Then: WKU softball head coach (2008–2013)

Now: Illinois softball head coach (2016–present)

Notes: Departed WKU for Ball State, where the Cardinals posted a combined 67 wins in two seasons. Hired by the Fighting Illini in June 2015 and has posted a 145-86 overall record.

Bruce Marchionda

Then: WKU swimming head coach (2005–2015)

Now: TAC Titans swim team head coach at Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, North Carolina (2016–present)

Notes: Position was eliminated by the university after the WKU men’s and women’s swimming and diving program was suspended for five years on April 14, 2015. The Bowling Green Police Department and WKU’s Title IX Office investigated hazing, sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations surrounding the program, and a Title IX report obtained through an open records request found that Marchionda knew about the violations since spring 2012.

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.