CLEARWATER ? Traveling more than 1,000 miles to Pittsburgh?s Heinz Field for Saturday?s football game was not an option for many bay area Bulls? fans. So for those who could not make the trip to watch the USF-Pittsburgh game, the Pinellas County Chapter of the Alumni Association staged its annual Bulls Blast at Storman?s Palace in Clearwater.
Located at 2675 Ulmerton Road, Storman?s doubles as a sports bar/cafÃ© and nightclub. Though not always dedicated only to USF events, Storman?s became awash in green and gold Saturday, as roughly 200 USF fans ? mostly alumni ? congregated in the tri-level building to cheer on the Bulls.
Dressed in USF jerseys and sporting green and gold necklaces, pom-poms and bull horns, patrons settled in front of the giant screen or near one of the numerous televisions dotting the Palace. When the action began at 1:30 p.m., the partisan crowd voiced their support for the Bulls? every (good) move.
Before the game even began, and again at halftime, prizes donated by the Alumni Association, Bullsmania.com and Bullstuff.com were awarded to lucky raffle-ticket holders. Game tickets, bull horns and Lee Roy Selmon-autographed mini-balls were on offer.
?We?re playing the 29th-ranked team in the United States. The fact that we?re winning at halftime is just phenomenal,? said Chapter Vice President Ken Griffin, who worked on previous Bulls Blasts in 1999 (USF-San Diego State) and 2000 (USF-Kentucky).
Griffin?s excitement echoed the feelings of the whole gathering, at least for most of the evening. When Pitt mounted a third-quarter comeback, the Palace crowd fell unusually silent, but their happiness soon returned.
With less than one minute to go in the fourth quarter, a chant of ?U-S-F, U-S-F!? began to reverberate throughout Storman?s. Then came the countdown with 10 seconds to go, and one final resounding cheer as the clock ticked down to zero and the 35-26 USF win was sealed.
Many of the alumni present did not have a football team to cheer when they attended USF ? for instance Alex Reiss, who spent 1987-91 as an undergraduate and 1991-95 in medical school. As an alternate senator on Student Government, Reiss said he actually threw a football rally during his medical school days, years before the team was to take the field.
?Coming back and seeing college football at the school where I went through eight years without a football team ? you just miss the atmosphere,? Reiss said. ?And this was it tonight, this was definitely it. It?s a phenomenal experience.?
Reiss said he was ?shocked? at the result ? USF was a 22-point underdog.
?I?m shocked, but nothing (USF coach) Jim Leavitt does amazes me any more,? he said.
Griffin said he was happy with the final turnout and the enthusiasm shown by the patrons.
?The event was fantastic. Everybody seems to be pleased,? he said.
?People are asking us when we?re going to have the next one, so that?s very positive.
?And to have a win like this against a big team like Pittsburgh makes it so much better.?
Contact Khari Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org