COLUMN: Taggart looking for national identity

WKU Football Head Coach Willie Taggart talks to President Gary Ransdell and other faculty members before the Wednesday’s Signing Day banquet at the Topper Club celebrating the signing of 13 new players to the Hilltopper program for the 2012 season.

Cole Claybourn

Arkansas State Head Coach Gus Malzahn said at his introductory press conference in December that he envisioned the Red Wolves’ upstart football program as becoming the “Boise State of the South.”

Those that follow college football are well aware of how Boise State, a school outside of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, is annually in the Top 10 rankings and often mentioned as a potential national title team.

It’s easy for schools like Arkansas State and WKU — both relatively similar in size to Boise State — to look at that program and try to mirror its winning methods.

But Willie Taggart isn’t subscribing to that. No, he has his own plan.

“I tell you this now because you hear people using it,” Taggart said to fans at the Smith Stadium Topper Club Wednesday during WKU’s National Signing Day reception. “‘Oh, we’re going to be the Boise (State) of the South.’ No, we’re not going to be the Boise of the South. We’re going to be Western Kentucky University that’s doing things like Boise’s doing, and that’s winning, and winning big.”

Does Taggart want what Boise State has achieved? Absolutely. What coach wouldn’t want that?

But he doesn’t want his program to be known as “the next Boise State,” or any other program for that matter.

He simply wants it to be known as WKU — certainly not “W. Kentucky.”

“You know when you watch ESPN and it says ‘W. Kentucky’ on there? No, it’s going to say ‘WKU’ across the screen,” he said. “We’re going to make them all know. If they don’t know the first time, we’re going to hit’ em again — what’s our name?”

How WKU’s name is listed on television is irrelevant, but Taggart is honing in on something that’s much more important — creating a national identity.

Taggart is in prime position to do that if he can capitalize on a 7-5 2011 season that brought both WKU and the Sun Belt Conference plenty of national attention.

And although his 2012 Signing Class didn’t rank first in the league like his first two did, Taggart said this year’s class has the potential to be his best.

“I think these guys will come in and help us take the next step to where we’re trying to go and help bring that vision of WKU football to where we can compete on a consistent basis,” he said.

“Now our objective as a football team is to become a dominant football team in the Sun Belt Conference and create national…listen…national identity.”