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On-campus stadium is next step for football program

Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012

Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2012 01:06

ORACLE FILE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

ORACLE FILE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

With a passionate and loyal fanbase, the USF football program is on the brink of taking the next step towards national recognition. To do that, they will need the luxury and convenience of an on-campus stadium.

Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida. The list of commonalities between these teams is long, but the most important one they share is their status as the teams responsible for the six BCS National Football Championships since the title game was introduced in 2007.

Along with being top recruiters in powerhouse conferences, the national title contenders in the BCS era are best known for one thing: Raucous fan bases that show up in full support every Saturday at the schools’ on-campus stadiums.

USF’s fan base is widely known as a small, but passionate group that matches the loyalty of fans from schools across the nation. Combined with a strong local community with growing support for their hometown school, the time has arrived for the construction of an on-campus stadium.

Any concerns of losing attendance from their local supporters— non-student fans that tend to make up a majority of the home crowd — can be extinguished with one statistic.

In two NCAA matches hosted by the USF men’s soccer team against UCF and New Mexico, the combined attendance was 6,621, including a program record of 3,592 in their Sweet Sixteen match against New Mexico. Fans from around Tampa made up a large part of the crowd thanks to the free admission provided by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

As for the potential drop off in amenities in going from the sparkling conditions of the $168.5 million Raymond James Stadium to an on-campus stadium that will likely be less luxurious, it seems as if the team’s leader himself is not concerned.

“Just put 50,000 seats around that field right there and we’ll be good,” head coach Skip Holtz said after the second annual Green and Gold Bowl, when the USF football team played a scrimmage at the on-campus Corbett Soccer Stadium.

Of the 14 teams that have won a national title in the BCS era, which began in 1998, only two teams played their home games in an off-campus stadium. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes, one of the most widely respected national champions in history, played their home games at the Miami Orange Bowl, while the 2004 USC Trojans played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was virtually adjacent to the school’s campus.

Despite a tough 2011 season,in which a 1-7 record down the stretch kept them out of a bowl game, the USF football program is on the rise. Since the team made their bowl game debut in 2005, they made five consecutive bowl games before their disappointment last season. In a memorable 2007 season, the Bulls started 6-0, made their first appearance in the national rankings and rose to second overall in the BCS rankings, before a three-game conference losing streak spoiled their season. The team is ready to take the next step.

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