WKU coach Taggart’s new deal pays $475,000 annual base salary

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WKU Head Coach Willie Taggart gets doused in Gatorade following WKU’s first home football victory since 2008 with a 42-23 win on Homecoming over Louisiana-Lafayette. Taggart eventually guided the Toppers to a 7-5 regular season record and was rewarded on Wednesday with a new four-year contract worth $475,000 per year.

Brad Stephens

Willie Taggart’s favorite catch phrase during his two years as WKU’s head football coach has been that “nobody” has it better than his Toppers.

As of Wednesday, nobody at WKU will have it better financially than Taggart.

The 35-year-old Taggart received a new contract that will pay an annual base salary of $475,000 through 2019, making him the highest-paid employee at WKU.

The new deal comes after he led the Toppers to a 7-5 record in 2011, the program’s first winning season since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision as a full member in 2009.

“This is a much deserved new contract for Coach Taggart, and we are pleased to demonstrate this level of commitment to him and the entire WKU football program,” said Athletics Director Ross Bjork in a statement. “Quite simply, every aspect of our program has improved under his watch and we are excited about the future.”

Taggart coached the 2010 and 2011 seasons under his original contract, which paid him a base salary of $225,000.

That figure was the 108th highest out of the 110 FBS head coaches whose salaries were reported by USA Today.

Taggart’s new $475,000 base salary would rank as the 85th-highest of coaches’ salaries listed in the report.

Per WKU protocol, the contract will be presented to the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents for review on Dec. 16, followed by submission to the full Board for approval at its meeting on Jan. 20, 2012.

Should Taggart’s contract be approved by the Board of Regents, the Toppers’ head man will now make more than $100,000 more than the school’s next-highest paid employee, President Gary Ransdell ($361,000).

“I sincerely appreciate the commitment made by Dr. Ransdell, Ross and the WKU administration,” Taggart said in a statement. “I am very humbled by this show of support, and I will earn every bit of it. As I often say, ‘WKU is in my DNA’ and this is where I want to be.”

Taggart, a former Topper quarterback, was hired to replace former coach David Elson in November of 2009. He was an All-American in his senior season of 1998 and held the record most rushing yards in Division I history for a quarterback (3,997) when he graduated.

Taggart moved onto the coaching ranks and served as Co-Offensive Coordinator for WKU’s 2002 I-AA National Championship as a 26-year-old. He was named WKU’s head coach after a three-year stint as running backs coach at Stanford, where he coached 2009 Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart.

Taggart signed the Sun Belt Conference’s top-ranked recruiting class in February of 2010, less than three months after taking the WKU job.

Taggart led the Toppers to a 2-10 record in his first year, snapping a 26-game losing streak in the process.

The Palmetto, Fla., native signed another top recruiting class last offseason, and then led WKU to a 7-5 record and a second-place finish in the Sun Belt in 2011.

The Toppers’ 7-1 league record in 2011 after a 2-6 league mark the year before was the biggest single-season improvement in Sun Belt history.

Taggart’s base salary will increase by 15 percent should he win eight regular season games.

Any eight-win regular seasons in subsequent years would earn him an additional five percent raise.

Taggart’s contract is also filled with incentive bonuses that could earn him up to another $158,750 next season.

An athletic department release said WKU also intends to increase the Toppers’ assistant coach salary pool by 20 percent.

“This worthwhile and additional investment is one we must make,” Bjork said. “We knew all along this level of commitment is necessary to continue to succeed at the FBS level.”