If USF’s athletics teams feel a lot like Rodney Dangerfield, I wouldn’t be surprised. They can’t get no respect.
I got to pondering that thought after repeatedly being asked what’s wrong with this USF sports team and that one.
What’s wrong with softball? How can women’s basketball become a winner?
Sitting with my dad, who recently moved to the Tampa area, at baseball’s home finale Sunday along with maybe 50 other fans, he suggested that once USF becomes a winner, people will come.
So, with those thoughts in my mind, I got to looking at USF athletics. And you know what I found? They’re already winners so there can’t be that much wrong with any of the teams on campus.
The softball team couldn’t find a consistent pitcher and had a losing season. The first losing season for coach Ken Eriksen and the first for the Bulls since 1989. Out of Eriksen’s six seasons, the Bulls have made it to the regionals three times and in two of those three appearances, they were one game away from a berth in the College Softball World Series. I’ll give coach Eriksen that one, but he’d better shape up.
Look at women’s tennis. They suffered the first back-to-back losing seasons in the program’s 36-year history. The 2001 and 2002 seasons brought coach Sherry Bedingfield’s total number of losing seasons to five. That’s five out of 23.
Women’s basketball, on the other hand, has a horrible track record at USF. By finishing 14-13, coach Jose Fernandez and the Bulls tied for the second best record in the program’s 30-year history. But the real story was how Fernandez coaxed a 10-game turnaround out of a squad with four freshmen and one senior. Did I mention this was the same team that a year before appeared on HBO and every other national media outlet due to an ongoing racism lawsuit?
Elsewhere on the USF athletics front, both men’s soccer and tennis were a one goal/point away from advancing to the Sweet 16. Football continued moving up the ladder without suffering a drop-off in the win column.
Why all the questions then?
It’s all impatience, I suppose. As opposed to the Michigans and Tennessees who can look back at a 100 years or more of athletic history, USF has only existed as an institution since 1956. And it’s hard not to be envious when you look around the state – Florida, Florida State and Miami have a virtual stranglehold on college football. The Hurricanes have two of the last six baseball national championships, and the Gators routinely put all of their athletic teams, even diving and gymnastics, in the top 25.
All I’m asking for is a little respect, maybe some recognition. I look around and see all these winners, yet I keeping wondering about dwindling attendance and get asked about losing.
I haven’t even mentioned volleyball, golf and men’s basketball, all of which have posted ample amounts of success.
Volleyball suffered a big setback at the Conference USA
Tournament but still had a winning season, the women’s golf team is onto regionals later this month and the men’s basketball team saw postseason action in the NIT.
I’m not suggesting being content with above average. It’s healthy to want to be the best and to expect nothing less. But that doesn’t mean you can reward and congratulate programs that have put forth winning seasons, just because they failed to win the big one. All I’m seeking is a little recognition and some respect. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.
Send feedback to Oracle Sports Editor Anthony Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org