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Seminoles' new football coach says leaving Oregon Ducks 'was really tough on me'

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Willie Taggart, as coach of the Oregon Ducks

It's Day One of the Willie Taggart Era at Florida State.

• Taggart's Florida State contract is worth $30 million base salary over six years.

It includes 15 performance bonuses. Some examples: $100,000 to $250,000 per year if his team meets certain academic standards, $50,000 if he's ACC Coach of the Year, $100,000 if he makes the $100,000 ACC championship game, $150,000 if he wins the ACC title, $50,000 for making a bowl game, $100,000 for making a bowl game with seven or more wins, $175,000 for making a New Year's Six Bowl, $250,000 for making the college football semifinals, $250,000 for being in the national championship game, and $500,000 for winning the national title.

The deal also includes $5.5 million per year for 10 assistant coaches — the most of any program in 2017 except LSU, and a bump up of nearly $1 million from what FSU paid its assistants this season.

• Taggart's first comment at his Wednesday press conference in Tallahassee, Florida:

"Don't be afraid to chase your dreams."

• Taggart on the timeline that got him from Oregon to Florida State: "I think it was last Thursday that I got a call that FSU was interested in me. Social media had it way before anything was done.

"It was horrible, because nothing had happened and I had to sit in front of the media and had to answer questions," with nothing definitive or close to being finalized with FSU.

• More from Taggart:

"I wanted to come here and play. I guess I wasn't good enough to get a scholarship."

"No matter where I went, the Seminoles were always a part of me."

• Taggart thanked UO athletic director Rob Mullens, school president Michael Schill, Nike co-founder Phil Knight and former UO AD Pat Kilkenny.

"Really, really great people Eugene, and a really, really hard decision for me because the people were so great," he said. "And it was really hard beause of my (Oregon) players. I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for them. It wasn't an easy decision. It was really tough on me.

"I had a great job at Oregon, but this was like the perfect fit for me. You don't always get the perfect fit, but for me to be back home, to be around my family, to have an opportunity to win a national championship, it don't get any better than that.

"Can't wait to get out on the road recruiting."

• More from Taggart on Oregon and the decision to leave:

"I had a good thing going at the University of Oregon … from the president on down … everything was right what it was supposed to be.

"Things were going well in every aspect. … And Phil Knight, I mean, he's an icon. I was in awe when I had a chance to meet him. … Rob was an awesome AD and was great to work for. You feel bad that you let him down, and I know I did. I'm sorry, I apologize. … The timing is probably not right, but it's never right when it's time to leave. … It was just a perfect situation. I wasn't going to leave it just for anything. … I know they'll find a great coach there, they have great players there, and they'll do a great job there."

• On saying goodbye and flying out of Eugene:

"After I told our football team, which is the hardest thing — those young men back there did everything I asked them to do. The hardest thing to do was to tell those guys and to tell Phil. Those guys really believed in me.

"Once I got on the plane, there was no looking back. Sat on the plane for about 20 minutes, just soaking it all in, then said, guess I'll just look at the back of my eyelids the rest of the trip."

• Florida State (6-6) is playing Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl, Wednesday, Dec. 27, at Shreveport, Louisiana.

Taggart said he likes the "unique" opportunity to be on hand for that.

"I get a chance to evaluate, which is pretty cool … usually when you are taking over, it's probably because someone got let go," he said.

• Next year, Taggart said he wants to make sure the Seminoles are "not on the outside looking in" at the ACC championship game and College Football Playoffs.

"Those are lofty goals, but that's the expectations at FSU, and we embrace them," Taggart said.

And, he added: "We're not going to blame anyone, we're not going to make any excuses, we're going to go out and do something."

• Florida State President John E. Thrasher said he's talked a lot already with Taggart about academics.

• Taggart called Florida State "a national brand."

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