Willie Taggart is doing himself no favors by fighting with media in Oregon

You never get a second chance to make a first impression is an old saying for a reason, and unfortunately for Willie Taggart, the first impression he’s making at Oregon could be one that sticks around for a while.

Taggart has not been the coach at Oregon for even three months yet, but he’s already finding himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Back in January, The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif reported that three Oregon players had to be hospitalized “after enduring a series of grueling strength and conditioning workouts” at Oregon. It was a very serious situation, and as a result, Oregon strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde was suspended for a month. Like Taggart, Oderinde was new to Oregon, and had come with Taggart from South Florida.

At the time, Taggart issued an apology for what happened, and said he understood the school’s decision to suspend Oderinde.

“As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first,” said Taggart.

But Taggart’s actions since then have differed from his words. He may say that he holds himself responsible, but his actions indicate he’s holding The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif responsible.

Earlier this week, Taggart announced that he’s no longer going to speak to Greif, the reporter who first broke the news that three of Taggart’s new players needed to be hospitalized. As for why, Taggart told the Daily Emerald that he was blacklisting Greif because of the way he characterized the workouts that led to three players needing to be hospitalized.

Taggart did not like that Greif described the workouts that led to those three players being hospitalized as “grueling” and “akin to military basic training.” In fact, Taggart says those descriptions contradicted what he told Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart said of Greif. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have s--- to do with you.”

Greif denies Taggart told him the workouts weren’t “grueling,” and says that if that’s what Taggart had told him, that’s what he would have reported. Greif also goes on to say that the descriptions of the workouts that led to three players being hospitalized came from many sources, not just Taggart, and that no Oregon spokespeople have ever challenged him on what he reported. 

Furthermore, Tim Gleason -- a journalism professor and the faculty athletics representative whom the school tasked with investigating the workout program -- ruled that Greif’s reporting was fair, and that the coaches made mistakes in the workouts that led to three players being hospitalized.

All of which makes Taggart’s personal vendetta against Greif seem so damn pointless. I’m not sure what he’s trying to accomplish with it, other than perhaps to distract people from the fact that three players had to be hospitalized. After all, the idea of somebody in power making a story about the media covering the story rather than the story itself seems to be all the rage these days, but I just don’t see how this helps Taggart in the long run.

As horrible of a situation as this all stems from -- you know, the one where three kids had to be hospitalized after a workout -- the truth of the matter is that eventually everyone would move on. By ignoring the reporter who broke the story, however, Taggart is doing nothing but ensuring that it’s a situation that keeps being talked about. Hell, I’m not writing these words right now if Taggart isn’t doing this.

He’s not holding himself responsible for anything at the moment, and there could come a day when his actions during the first months of his tenure at Oregon will come back to haunt him during the final months. If they do, it won’t be anything personal, either, but it will be fair and honest.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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