The Union County High School Athletic Department is buzzing over the announcement of the Yellow Jackets’ new head football coach — Steve Taneyhill.
The official announcement that the Union County Board of School Trustees had offered the position of head football coach to Steve Taneyhill — and that he had accepted — was made at Monday night’s board meeting. Local media representatives were present with extra staff, and members of the media from around the Upstate — television, radio and print — were also present. Everyone anticipated the announcement about which much speculation had circulated last week.
After the customary invocation, Pledge of Allegiance and approval of minutes from the previous meeting, the board went into an executive session which lasted approximately 40 minutes. Meanwhile, the hallway outside the board room in the Union County Career and Technology Center was packed with members of the media as well as football supporters who wanted to hear the announcement firsthand. When the board reconvened into open session, a decision was made by way of a 7-2 vote to offer the position to Taneyhill — a former USC Gamecocks quarterback and current Chesterfield High School Head Football Coach.
“When we began our search, I called districts and coaches all around the state and asked who the best football coach is,” said Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall. “The name mentioned time and time again was Steve Taneyhill. During the interview process, we were impressed with his commitment to excellence and the shared vision that we have for Union County football. In Union County we are building champions in academics, athletics and fine arts. Adding Coach Taneyhill to our family moves us one step closer to our goals.”
“We are impressed by his record and commitment to winning both on and off the field,” added school board chair B.J. McMorris. “We look forward to the great days ahead for Union County football!”
Principal Floyd Lyles said he was impressed with the zeal and passion Taneyhill showed while interviewing for the position.
“Coach Taneyhill’s enthusiasm for the game generates intense excitement!” Lyles said. “His dedication to the continued success of student athletes was impressive to me and to the selection committee. He brings a passion for football that I admire as a former player and coach at Union.”
Lyles said he was also impressed by the way Taneyhill wanted to keep the focus on the students rather than himself.
“His total focus is the students and building the program, not to build himself,” Lyles said. “It’s about the program and the kids, not about him.”
From 1998-2002, Taneyhill served as head football coach/assistant athletic director at Cambridge Academy in Greenwood. In 2004, he was offensive coordinator at West Ashley High School. Since 2005, Taneyhill has been the head coach for the Chesterfield High School Golden Rams.
During his time as a head coach, Taneyhill’s teams had 120 wins and 34 losses; seven state championship game appearances; and five state championships (2000 and 2001 at Cambridge Academy and 2007, 2008 and 2009 at Chesterfield High). Before Taneyhill began coaching at Chesterfield High, the team was 1-19 for two years.
Since 2005, 15 of Taneyhill’s players have earned college scholarships and five were named Player of the Year. Taneyhill was named Coach of the Year five times and Region Coach of the Year three times. He was inducted into the University of South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Blair County Hall of Fame in Altoona, PA in 2010.
Many remember Taneyhill from his time as a quarterback for the USC Gamecocks. He was named USA Today Freshman All American, 1992 AP Freshman All American, 1992 Sports Illustrated Freshman of the Year, 1994 and 1995 South Carolina Gamecocks MVP and 1995 Carquest Bowl MVP. He played in the Senior Bowl and Blue Grey All Star Games, and he was a 1995 finalist for the Jim O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Award.
Between 1996-1998, Taneyhill had professional playing time as he signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, played for Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe, and played for New York Cityhawks in Arena Football League. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina.
At a basketball pep rally held Tuesday, Taneyhill introduced himself to the UCHS student body, asking students to attend basketball games and show support for their team. Taneyhill said he planned to attend Tuesday’s game and he hoped to see a large number of students showing school spirit there.
“So they will know what it will be like when we go to Spartanburg in the fall and win Game 1,” Taneyhill said.
The pep rally was followed by a press conference in Room 600 of the Union County Career and Technology Center. Besides members of the press, those attending included school board members and district employees. Local and state officials such as Rep. Mike Anthony (who served on the head coach selection committee), Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair, Union Sheriff David Taylor, Union Mayor Harold Thompson and Carlisle Mayor Mary Ferguson-Glenn were also present.
Taneyhill said he will start work in an official capacity on March 1 but will be visible in the county before that date. He said he met with UCHS football players Tuesday morning, and a team trip is planned for Saturday. He also said he planned to meet with a real estate agent Wednesday morning in order to find a residence in Union.
Taneyhill was asked why he chose to pursue Union for the next stage of his coaching career.
“Coach Scott told me a long time ago when I got into high school coaching, ‘Don’t just go to anywhere; don’t just go to any school,’” Taneyhill said. “I’ve been picky with what I’ve even looked at, but the tradition here is a big draw, the community support, all those little things that make a program.
“I want to be the best,” he added. “I want my program to be the — best — football — program. At some point, I want my program to be one of those you see on the USA Today Super 25. That’s the goal.”
How does he plan to elevate Union’s program to such a level?
“It’s going to be fun, and I hope everybody’s ready,” Taneyhill said. “It’s going to be a different style. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to play fast and these young men are going to be in the best shape of their lives. We’re going to do those little things. We’re going to walk the walk and talk the talk.”
Taneyhill also said that although offense sells tickets to football games, defense wins state championships, and he briefly described his coaching style.
“On offense we’re going to be fast paced — spreads and a lot of shotguns,” he said. “I believe in getting a lot of guys the ball. You’re not just relying on one guy. On defense, we’re going to take chances and fly around.”
Taneyhill said one of his fellow coaches from Chesterfield — Ryan Young — will also come on board in Union as the team’s offensive coordinator.
County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair introduced himself to Taneyhill and said he applauded the school district’s choice. Someone then said that statement meant more coming from Sinclair, who is a well-known Clemson fan.
“I’m a Gamecock, but it’s not about Carolina and Clemson now,” Taneyhill said. “My team plays on Friday nights.”
Many Yellow Jacket football supporters came out to welcome Taneyhill, including his former USC teammate — Union native Monty Means. Means said he looks for good things from Taneyhill and remembered their time playing together for USC.
“He was a leader,” Means said. “They have the talent, and even if it takes a year or two, he’s going to open that offense up.”
Taneyhill said he first wants to get as many UCHS students playing football as he can.
“We’ve gotta find 22 guys who want to leave it on the line every night,” he said.