Taggart speculation not bothering Toppers

Lucas Aulbach

Reports about coach Willie Taggart’s future may have reached a fever pitch in the past few days, but Topper players are convinced the rumors aren’t going to bother the team as they prepare for the first bowl game in school history.

Taggart didn’t go into detail on the issue at practice Wednesday but said he had spoken to his players about the speculation.

Whatever he said, it sounds like the Toppers have taken it to heart. Senior safety Kareem Peterson said WKU has enough to think about while the team prepares for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

“We’re playing in a bowl game — the school’s first ever bowl game,” Peterson said. “Stuff like that, we can’t control, and we need to avoid and focus on what we’ve got Dec. 26 in Detroit.”

WKU hired former Topper quarterback Taggart in Nov. 2009 after he served as the running backs coach at Stanford for three years.

He took over a program that had just become a full FBS member and was 2-22 in the past two seasons.

Since then, he has compiled a 16-20 record, including consecutive 7-5 seasons, guided WKU to its first FBS bowl game and become a target for several big universities seeking a new coach.

Word travels fast on the Internet, and rumors surfaced on Twitter as early as Monday that several major universities with head coaching vacancies were targeting Taggart.

The school that has come up in the most reports is South Florida. Taggart would seem like a natural candidate for the school, which is located in Tampa, Fla. He played football at nearby Manatee High School and recruits heavily from the area.

Taggart said some of those rumors on the Internet caused him to talk to his team about the speculation before Wednesday’s practice.

“I saw all the stuff on Twitter, too,” Taggart said.

Senior tight end Jack Doyle, who has been voted a team captain the past three seasons, said the Toppers have no reason to pay attention to any of the talk as they prepare for the postseason.

“Right now, that’s just rumor and speculation,” Doyle said. “It’s nothing we can pay attention to.”

Peterson said with the bowl game looming, the Toppers have to focus on the things they can control — including the next three weeks of practice.

There’s no reason to stress over a situation they can’t control, he said.

“It’s only going to go one way,” Peterson said. “He’s either going to be here or not. We really can’t control that. And from the looks of things, he’s going to be here.”