Unlike the way he violently threw opposing teams’ quarterbacks to the ground as a player, the Lee Roy Selmon away from the field was a much quieter and more subdued person. He stepped down, possibly permanently on Monday, but the impact he had on USF athletics will ring loudly for some time.
Every time USF takes the field in the upcoming years underneath the banner of the Big East logo, it will be a reminder of how Selmon improved USF athletics. Should the Bulls ever get a chance to play in a BCS bowl or quite possibly for a national championship, a little of that credit will have to go to Selmon for his ability to get USF out of a dead-end situation in Conference USA.
When the Bulls welcome Syracuse, UConn, Notre Dame, etc. to a packed Sun Dome some day in the near future, Selmon will have had a hand in that too.
But even more than that, Selmon will deserve credit for keeping USF’s attitude in line with his own — cool and controlled. Most people forget when he inherited the title of athletic director, USF had the stain of the Jerry Ann Winters racism allegations hanging over the whole university. The Bulls were getting national media attention, but for all the wrong reasons. The lawsuits, the expose on HBO, all of it was ready to be dropped into the lap of the next person who took Paul Griffin’s seat at the head of the USF athletics table. Selmon put a face on this university’s sports while the school reaped the benefits of his grace and class.
His sure and patient manner drew questions about how effectively he did his job, from me specifically, but his coaching hires have put a stamp on USF athletics that will continue to shape the Bulls’ image. Selmon signed on a mega-name in Gigi Fernandez to follow Sherry Bedingfield’s near 25-year reign as the women’s tennis coach. I can’t recall another time when a school hired a women’s tennis coach and it made national news, but that day the news scrolled across ESPN’s Bottom Line announcing Fernandez’s hire.
The Bulls were caught off guard when Seth Greenberg resigned and the hiring process moved slowly, but for sure, his hiring of Robert McCullum signaled that the loose attitude and the numerous suspensions that occurred during Greenberg’s tenure wouldn’t happen again. Selmon also locked up Jim Leavitt to a long-term extension and finally made an athletics facility a reality.
Another reality is that whoever fills the position next has big-money issues staring them dead in the face. Leavitt’s new contract and the building didn’t come cheap, and neither will the costs associated with the big move to the Big East in 2005. USF and Selmon were a perfect match nearly three years ago because he provided stability, as well as bringing credibility and attention to the school. He also came from inside the program with his own son playing for Bulls, meaning he had a plenty of dedication to USF.
Selmon rose from within the ranks, besting Barbara Sparks-McGlinchy and Carl Carlucci to earn the job. But as they were overlooked last time, it again doesn’t seem like this is the right moment for them. The move to the Big East pleads for someone who has managed at the highest levels and owns experience dealing with the NCAA’s biggest movers and shakers.
The financial stake that President Judy Genshaft and the university have placed in athletics demands that the next AD see Selmon’s initiatives through, while at the same time not forgetting the calm demeanor and class he brought to the position.