If places instead of people could be featured on ABC’s reality show Extreme Makeover, USF might have been a strong contender.
Regardless, the university seems to be well on its way to shedding its ugly duckling image, and the rest of the country is noticing.
With Tuesday’s acceptance to join the Big East, it won’t be long before other “biggies” follow. Big egos. Big scandals (not that we haven’t already had those). Big expectations. Welcome, USF, to the Big Boys’ league.
President Judy Genshaft inherited quite a bit of bad press when she succeeded President Betty Castor. Despite Genshaft’s popular, as well as not-so-popular decisions, this is a significant milestone all USF supporters should help her celebrate. Like the matriarch of a dysfunctional family, Genshaft deserves a pat on the back from anyone who claims to have Brahman Bull blood in their veins.
She did not, however, do it entirely alone. Athletic Director Lee Roy Selmon and his crew undoubtedly also had the vision of heading to the Big East. I’m no big sports fan, but we live in a society that recognizes college sports teams above award-winning academics. If USF athletics is the key to opening the door to more state money, nationally-known job applicants and students fighting for the chance for a USF education, then order an extra set of pom-poms; I’m ready to cheer on every team. A televised game on ESPN will bring USF more exposure than any new logo or slogan ever could.
Companies are also noticing the change and investing in prime “Bulls Country” real estate on campus. Starbucks is scheduled to soon open in the Library. Burger King will come to the Bull Market Area soon. Is it time to buy stock in USF yet? When it comes to what sells a university — and it boils down to sports teams and location — the answer is yes.
“USF at Tampa Bay,” I once heard Genshaft say is the way she’d like to market the university. That’s not a bad idea, considering what else has happened in the Bay area recently. The Super Bowl Buccaneers. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent winning streak. Tampa Bay sports teams have paid their dues and are now collecting on well-due celebrity status. Any way USF’s teams and programs can grab onto that coattails of success is a good thing.
USF must not forget that the university’s job is to offer a comprehensive experience. Don’t let academics, course offerings and extra-curricular activities suffer for the sake of sports. Administrators should continue to fight just as hard for an extra section of a popular fine arts course as they would for new uniforms for a sports team.
Subtle changes are happening on campus, if you only stop to look at them. A new parking garage is being built. Who thought that day would ever come? Greek housing is another plan that stayed on paper so long, the sketches probably turned yellow. And this year, it’s here.
I’ve always looked at USF as a university where students create the traditions. The university is young enough still for students to create traditions like Homecoming’s Masquerade Ball. Here we are today, watching a new page in USF history being written.
Maybe Genshaft has been right all along with one of her signature phrases: “It’s a great time to be at USF.” Yes, it is, Madame President. Yes, it is.
Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief. email@example.com