Selmon aims to build from within
Oracle: What is it like to be so revered in the community as both a Hall of Fame football player and a well-respected citizen? Does the attention you receive everywhere you go ever get too much at times?
Selmon: No, not really. I really see myself as a citizen of my community like everybody else, and realize, each day, to try to make the most of it and do the best we can to do our various tasks and jobs, and along the way try to be involved with others as well. But I feel no more pressure than the next man. You try to be the best you can be? nobody?s perfect. I know I can?t be a perfect individual, but you can try to be the very best you can be and go through life treating other people the way you would like to be treated. Just be yourself ? I think that?s the easiest way to go about it. And hopefully, that will be good enough to where you can work well with others. So you don?t go about trying to impress people, but go about treating people with honesty, sincerity and respect and work hard to do these types of things.
Oracle: How long do you think it will take the football program here at South Florida to ascend into the ranks of the ?Big Three,? meaning Miami, Florida and Florida State?
Selmon: I don?t know. There is so much involved with growth and development and really, a lot of it will depend on our community. And I?m thankful the community and the students have been embracing the growth of our football program. If you look around, like you mentioned, at the top three and see what?s going on at those programs, realize that if you want to be in that ?elite? fraternity, if you will, it will take all of us to get there. As we as alumni, students, staff and fans of USF football continue to grow and come together, who knows? I don?t think it is out of the realm of possibility, that we will grow over a period of time and hopefully, one day, look on TV and see USF right along with the other top schools.
Oracle: With Florida ranked preseason No.1 and Miami No.2, I?m going to put you on the spot and ask you who do you think will win the National Championship in college football?
Selmon: Well, you?ve got the defending national champions out there in the Midwest (Oklahoma). You just can?t rule those guys out. I think they?ll make another good run at it. They have an outstanding coach, and they have a lot of excitement surrounding the program after last season. I think they?ll be in contention again.
Oracle: What kind of impressions of the football program have you been gathering from colleagues regarding the rapid growth of the football program in such a short time?
Selmon: I?ve heard a lot of favorable comments about what?s occurred with our program so far. That?s good to hear that your being perceived that way. And I think our coaching staff and players have worked very hard to continue with the growth of our program, and we are very appreciative of their efforts and also our community ? the way they?ve embraced it, by coming out to the games. When you look at all that, that?s the reason why it?s where it is today. But certainly, we have a lot of work to do. There are challenges still in front of us as we grow and enterprise at this next level, at IA. It?s kind of like graduating from high school to college. We realize we do have to grow from an internal infrastructure standpoint. This means we have to increase our donor base, we have to increase fan attendance and so forth to grow in our competitiveness in I-A.
Oracle: Do you get to ride on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway for free?
Selmon: No, I don?t get to ride on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway for free, but that?s all right (laughing). One of the funniest things about that is, I don?t live in an area where I use it very often. Recently, a few weeks ago, I was coming from downtown St. Petersburg, and I was driving on it, maybe a couple miles per hour over the speed limit. I saw these lights come on behind me, and I thought I was going to get stopped on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Fortunately, he was going for somebody else and not me.
Oracle: Are there any plans in the works for an on-campus football stadium. If there are, how far in the future would that idea be feasible?
Selmon: I think the idea is there. Ideally, we would like to have a stadium on campus. The timing of which is anyone?s guess at this point. I think so many things will have to happen in our growth and development and commitments toward an expensive endeavor like that. But I think, through the years, if we?re getting great fan attendance and our donor base is growing in such a manner that the other expenses required to run, not just your football program, but all your athletic programs are healthy, and you have a surplus after that, then you might be able to apply that toward a facility. It?s tough to say ?in five years, 10 years, 15 years? we will be ready.
Oracle: South Florida has always had the image of a commuter school. Would constructing an on-campus stadium help change that label?
Selmon: I think so. As more buildings are being constructed around the campus, more residence halls are going up. It?s taking more of the look of a non-commuter campus. This is another addition to the bigger master plan that will attract more people here to the campus itself. I think it fits in well with turning that image around.
Oracle: There are more than 35,000 students at South Florida, and men?s basketball only averaged a little more than 5,000 fans at the Sun Dome last season. As the athletics director, what can you do to boost fan attendance and get students more involved in sports on campus?
Selmon: We?re going to reach out to them and just keep inviting them and asking them to come. It is their program and we appreciate those 5,000 or so who come out, and we want them to continue to come and help us reach out. Bring a friend, invite your neighbor or colleague from work to come out and see a great brand of basketball. We play some of the best teams in the county, and it?s right here in our community. We, as a department, want to be out more, talking up our programs, inviting people to come out and making it a bit more personal. And do some things to try to excite our students on campus to get them coming as well. We?ll be trying to bring back the Midnight Madness, which is always a nice way to start, and we?ll try to have some programs in place to get some tradition and things started with our students to increase those numbers.
Oracle: Who was the last quarterback that you sacked?
Selmon: You?re testing my memory real good (laughing). That?s a good question. Actually, the last quarterback I sacked was at the Pro Bowl. It was in ?85 and the quarterback was Dan Marino.
Oracle: In your opinion, what qualifications are necessary to hold the position of athletics director?
Selmon: The ability to work well with your staff. Putting together a strategic plan that?s clearly understood to move forward. Being able to create a great environment for teamwork, where everyone realizes how important their role is in the overall success. It?s a ?we? and ?us? working together for a common goal, just like a team. We have to be very strategic in identifying where the infrastructure support needs to be.
Oracle: When you get some time to relax, how do you like to spend your free time?
Selmon: The wife and I like to enjoy going to the movies or something and just relaxing around the house. I like doing yard work, from time to time, just being outside. To me that?s kind of relaxing; it?s getting your mind on something other than your professional job. I like to sit down and read different magazines and newspapers.
Oracle: Do you play golf? What is your handicap?
Selmon: I?m a hacker. I hack around the golf course. (My handicap) is as high as it can get: that?s mine.
Oracle: Before former athletics director Paul Griffin resigned, did you ever have any aspirations to one day become an AD?
Selmon: In a career path, looking at the world of athletics as an associate director, your next move would probably be as a director. It wasn?t anything I was thinking about. It was more or less being part of a team and taking care of the responsibilities I had. As it turns out, I am thankful and humble to President Genshaft. As the time came around when they had to do a search for a new AD, they granted me the opportunity. I am humbled by it and excited about it. It?s a great challenge, not just for me, but for all of us. I?m very appreciative of it.
Oracle: After the racial discrimination lawsuits involving the women?s basketball program arose and the search for a new AD began, your name was the one most people were talking about as the logical choice for replacing Griffin. But with a good job already, outside financial interests and a secure future, why would you want the headaches of picking up the pieces from the fallout of the racial discrimination lawsuits?
Selmon: It?s a chance to be part of something very special going on here at the university. I feel very bad about the situation that occurred with our student-athletes and the women?s basketball program. My desire and hope is that everyone who was touched by that can move forwards and have productive, happy lives. As a department, the focus is the wonderful opportunity to continue the growth and development of all USF athletics. I get a little excited about it. There are not many opportunities one has in a lifetime to be involved in an organization in the stages we?re in. We have some goals out there, so let?s tighten up the old chinstraps and go after them. It?s an exciting opportunity and a chance for us to really enjoy it and be as successful as we can be. (The decision) was something me and my family prayed about, realizing it was more involvement in the department. We knew it would be more time consuming, with more responsibilities, but I was excited about the opportunity. I have been here for eight years and have seen how far it has come and see the potential for moving forward.
Oracle: How much damage was done to the university?s reputation by the racial discrimination lawsuits, which caused Griffin to resign, and Jerry Ann Winters to be fired?
Selmon: Certainly it was something no institution, or anyone, would want to deal with. It?s hard to say how much damage was done. It?s not the perception you want in your organization or university, so we need to work hard to earn back our credibility and repair the damage that was done. We need to let folks know that things are going to change. As tough of a situation as that has been, we have to learn from it and find out how we can be better and not let that situation occur anymore. So, that?s the positive side of it, and I?m proud of the university?s work, in that regard. (We now have) systems in place, not just in the athletics department, but all across the campus, so if there is any form of discrimination, there is a place where anyone, students or staff, can call and get their concerns answered and discussed. That is where you avoid a lot of misperceptions and miscommunications before they get so out of hand.
Oracle: If the university could go back and do things over, what could have done to prevent something like that from occurring?
Selmon: I hate to go back and say what could have happened back then. I?m more focused and concerned with what?s going on moving forward. I think what the university is putting into place to avoid any of those types of situations happening again is what?s most important. It is unfortunate, but I?m really hopeful the situation will work itself out. It?s in a legal arena now, and hopefully all the parties that have been involved can find a satisfactory solution and be able to move forward.
From the university?s standpoint, we embrace diversity. I think diversity is good in an environment so folks can come in and know that they?re appreciated and have the opportunity to be the very best that they can be.
Oracle: You?re from a large, close family. Have the values your parents instilled in you carried over into your approach to parenting?
Selmon: I think so. It comes from growing up in a family of nine children. We are a very close-knit family. We had a lot of fun together. We worked together growing up on a farm. There was a lot of work to be done, so we always teamed up to get those various tasks done. It was a great environment to grow up in and I think that has carried over with myself and my wife. Families are important. I believe that in a society, the more families that are together and supporting each other, the better off the society will be.
Oracle: Describe for me what emotions were going on inside you as your brother, Dewey, introduced you into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Selmon: That was an unbelievable experience. There was a combination of so many people there who played significant roles in my life. My whole family was there. My brothers and sisters were able to be there, as well as my mom and high school coach and players I had played with. To me, it was very humbling. The combination of all those folks that have really been a part of your life makes you realize if even one of those people were not part of your life, would you be there? More than likely, probably not. It was so good to have my brother Dewey introduce me, I thought that was just a reflection of who we are and how we feel about family and the importance of family.
Oracle: Do you think Lee Roy Selmon Jr. felt any pressure to follow in his father?s footsteps as a football star?
Selmon: I hope not, but I?m sure there was some pressure from his peers at school, especially when he made the decision for himself to go out for the junior high team. I think he?s held with it very well, and when he decided he wanted to participate in football, that was his choice.
Oracle: Can you still beat Lee Roy Jr. in the 40-yard dash?
Selmon: No, not anymore. The wheels have gone bad on me.
Contact Brandon Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org