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Athletics snags a new ride

Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 01:02

USF Athletics has added a number of new things this year. It now offers personal MacBooks to student athletes, and it's undergoing multi-million dollar renovations.

Now, thanks to a donation last week from long-time benefactors to the University, the department has access to its own private jet.

Frank and Carol Morsani donated a 1979 Cessna Citation 1/SP to USF Athletics, the University announced last week, and it will be used primarily for recruiting and as an alternative to commercial flights, said University spokesman Michael Hoad.

"It will be used when it is more cost or time effective than commercial transportation," he said.

Sun Dome Inc., an independently-run service organization, will own and operate the aircraft, and those who wish to use it will have to pay the operating expenses, Hoad said.

"They will own the title primarily to create a separation from state funding," he said. "No public funds will go toward the plane."

Dave Champley, manager of sales engineering at Cessna Aircraft, said the original retail cost of a 1979 Cessna Citation was $1.3 million.  With inflation, the estimated value is $3.84 million.

"It costs roughly $1,600 per flight hour to fuel and maintain the aircraft," Champley said.

Champley said estimating the annual operating cost of the plane would be difficult.

"It's a big variable," he said. "Keeping two pilots on payroll could cost anywhere between $100,000 to $150,000."

The aircraft is just another in a long line of donations from the Morsanis, said Jae Wilson, director of USF Foundation Communications, in an e-mail. In 2006, the Morsanis gave $10 million, $7 million which helped to create the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care, located on the corner of Magnolia and Holly Drives, and $3 million which went to creating a new football practice complex and a stadium for the women's softball team.

Carol Morsani is involved with the USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy organization.

"In total, the Morsanis have made gifts to the University of just over $23 million," Wilson said.

Frank Morsani ran a series of successful Toyota dealerships, though he started as an auto mechanic.

"Frank Morsani believes that major institutions in Tampa help make it a better city," Hoad said. "He is also a big supporter of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center … The Morsanis very much believe in giving back to the community what they've made. They are classic corporate citizens."

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Tue Feb 23 2010 10:10
They can fly over Campus and look at the HIGH RENT Residence halls and laugh at the people who are just here for an education. BOYCOTT SPORTS
Reality Check
Mon Feb 22 2010 10:20
Money talks folks, and like it or not, it is these same student athletes that generate so much money for the University via TV contracts and athletic endorsement deals. They will continue to invest in their sports programs, as other universities do, becuase in the end...they are getting a HUGE return on that investment.
Fri Feb 12 2010 12:31
This is so not cool. Isn't a university supposed to be like a temple of higher learning or something?? It seems the University has totally lost it when the administration and donors' priorities are more towards providing personal jets and costly gadgets to the athletes when thousands of regular students are struggling to make their ends meet and making do with fewer teachers and lesser academic scholarships.
Thu Feb 11 2010 20:59
A airplane for Athletics?? Never in a million years .... This must be a joke or something. This place is insane!!!!!

Can someone direct the Morisani Family to the other needy Departments within USF. The athletics Department has reached its ridiculous limit now.

Not an athletic duffer...
Thu Feb 11 2010 12:34
Why the hell do they need to be given a personal Mac on the university's dime?? DISLIKE, DISLIKE, DISLIKE!!!
Thu Feb 11 2010 11:01
So now it is out in the open for everyone to see where Usf's priorities lie - providing quality education or athletics. I just can't wait to graduate this summer be gone from Usf for good.

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