The first 20 days overseeing Bulls football, the crown jewel of South Florida athletics, have been a whirlwind for Doug Woolard.
The new athletic director has been living with his wife — back in St. Louis — through an office phone, has seen his star student-athlete bailed out of jail for unpaid child support and has lunched with ESPN executives about the future of Bulls football.
But he’s standing firmly on a goal he set when he set up shop less than three weeks ago.
“My goal for us is to win a national championship,” Woolard said.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Woolard’s blueprint to success.
“I definitely think it’s possible,” he said. “I think now that we’re in a BCS league it gives us access to win a national championship and I think that’s what our goal should be.”
Woolard knows football. Although his last stint was on a pigskin-less campus, Woolard got his start as an associate director for the sports program at Pac-10 football powerhouse Washington State.
“I got there in ’88, and because of the group we put together — the coaching staff and the people they recruited — their teams have been to three Rose Bowls since that time,” Woolard said.
The rise of the USF football program has been well-documented and was a major selling point when the search began to fill the vacancy left by former A.D. Lee Roy Selmon.
Now, with the right man for the job in place, a 2005 move into the Big East conference is poised to be the final step of the journey toward football relevance, but might be the first move in a much grander plan. Woolard sees the short history of the Bulls football program as the perfect means to some January end.
“This football program is certainly very young, and what has happened under coach Leavitt is pretty amazing. The rise of this program and the improvement it has shown in such a short amount of time is remarkable. Now that we have an opportunity at a future BCS berth, our goal is the national championship,” he said.
Another thing that immediately impressed Woolard about the Bulls’ hard-nosed coach is the bond that he has with the players he coaches.
“It is really remarkable the way (Leavitt’s) players look to him,” Woolard said. “It’s something special.”
Leavitt’s fiery determination will definitely be one of the keys needed to build the Bulls into a national power, a notion with which Woolard agrees.
But Woolard doesn’t exactly share the kind of burning intensity that causes Leavitt to head-butt some of his players — in full-headgear, mind you — with his own bare forehead.
“I’m not exactly going to be doing that,” Woolard said. “But I’ll help in just about any way I can.”
And just because he isn’t ready to get physical doesn’t mean he’s not as pumped up as all the other backers in “Bulls Country,” who have poured their hearts out for seven years of Bulls football.
And he’s only been a fan for 20 days.
“I’m really excited about this season, and I’ll certainly be at every game,” Woolard said. “And I’ll be there in December for the bowl game.”