Willie Taggart lands at FAU following FSU firing

Florida Atlantic has hired Willie Taggart as its next coach, with the sides finalizing a five-year contract Wednesday, the school announced.

Taggart was fired last month at Florida State after only 21 games as Seminoles coach. He replaces Lane Kiffin, who left Saturday to become head coach at Ole Miss. Kiffin guided Florida Atlantic to a Conference USA championship this season, as well as another league title in 2017.

Taggart's contract calls for him to be paid at least $3.85 million if all five years of the deal are completed, according to documents released by the school.

"We plan on being here a long time," Taggart said at an introductory news conference Thursday.

Taggart will earn $750,000 a year in base salary, along with a $25,000 annual retention bonus that would be paid starting in 2021. Other perks include membership at the Boca Raton Resort and Club and a car allowance.

He is also eligible for bonuses for bowl appearances, conference titles, year-end national rankings, coaching awards and academic achievement by the football team.

"There was tremendous interest in this position," said FAU athletic director Brian White, who learned late last week that Kiffin was leaving.

Taggart congratulated Kiffin for what he did in Boca Raton, going 26-13 in three seasons.

"He made FAU a better football program," Taggart said.

Taggart, 43, will begin his fifth FBS head-coaching job after previous stops at Western Kentucky, South Florida, Oregon and Florida State. He is 56-62 overall with a 10-win season at South Florida in 2016. Taggart went 7-5 in his only season at Oregon and 9-12 at Florida State, which fired him following a home loss to Miami.

"I couldn't be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program," White said. "Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success."

A native of Bradenton, Florida, Taggart had been mentioned as a candidate for the coaching vacancy at South Florida, which ultimately went to Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott.

The terms of Taggart's deal represent a savings for FAU -- and for Florida State.

FAU was paying Kiffin about $1 million in base salary and got Taggart for basically 25% less. And Taggart's salary with the Owls also will reduce the total that Florida State owes on the remainder of his deal there, according to terms stipulated in the letter of agreement he signed with the Seminoles in December 2017. Florida State owed Taggart about $18 million -- 85% of the salary remaining on his deal.

Taggart would owe Florida Atlantic $3 million in a buyout if he chooses to leave the Owls before Dec. 1, 2022, $1 million if he leaves between that date and Dec. 1, 2023, and $500,000 if he leaves between then and Dec. 31, 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.