On Friday, USF Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon entrusted Robert McCullum with the men’s basketball team.
Robert and Joy Daugherty also showed their trust in McCullum by donating $1.5 million to the athletic department.
The couple donated $1 million toward academic enrichment (computers, laptops and students needs) and $500,000 for the basketball program.
Mrs. Daugherty has donated to USF in the past, including a gift of $10 million in the name of the Culverhouse Fund.
Daugherty is the widow of Hugh Culverhouse, former owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Daughertys have kept in close contact with Selmon during the hiring process of McCullum.
Both Daugherty and Selmon regard McCullum’s importance of the student before the athlete.
“I had a chance to talk with the coach myself,” Robert Daugherty said. “I was impressed by his attitude and that he put the student ahead of the athlete.”
“When I first met with Mr. McCullum about this position, there was a genuine passion,” Selmon said. “His philosophy embraces that character, academics and athletics are interlocked.”
Selmon started searching for a coach soon after Seth Greenberg took the coaching position at Virginia Tech.
Selmon selected McCullum, in just two weeks, from among other candidates, such as former USF assistant David Zimroth, Florida associate coach Anthony Grant, and head coaches Ralph Willard of Holy Cross and Todd Lickliter of Butler.
“There was a nice pool,” Selmon said. “I believe if you found that one among that pool, you might as well move forward. Why continue the process just to continue the process? That’s a waste of our resources, a waste of our time and out of respect to our players and this department, I felt it was necessary that if we found that right person, it was time to move forward.”
McCullum was an assistant at Florida and then Illinois under Lon Kruger before moving on to the head job at Western Michigan.
In three years as coach of the Broncos, McCullum led the team to a 20-win season and a National Invitational Tournament appearance this season.
Even with quality performance on the court, the underlying message for the media and alumni was his character and his expectations for the players off the court.
“First and foremost, we were looking for a qualified person for the position,” Selmon said. “Robert McCullum has great qualifications, and I was looking for the best person for the job. Period.”
USF was a step up from McCullum’s former employer, Western Michigan, but the Bulls’ new coach feels he will raise USF’s program instead of the program raising him.
“This is not only an opportunity for me, but an opportunity for all of us together to help make this program more competitive and more responsible to the vision of Lee Roy Selmon and USF,” McCullum said. “I know with great leadership and the great university I have to work with, I am confident we can take this program to a level we can all be proud of.
“It’s a program pregnant with possibilities and a university pregnant with possibilities, and I’m eager to join hands with you and do my part.”
Before the press conference, McCullum met with his new players in an informal meet-and-greet.
“I said a number of things, but basically what I tried to convey was things are going to be OK,” McCullum said. “They can put a name with a face, put it all together. I tried to give them an idea of what I expect, what I believe in, my philosophy, my idea of what it takes to be successful.”
The meeting Friday was just preliminary, with more detailed individual meetings taking place Monday.
The early meetings should save on any distractions during the regular season.
“It’s a new head coach, so during the season, it’s a distraction,” sophomore Marlyn Bryant said. “He told us what he wants for us. (Today), he will sit us down individually and tell us our roles.”
Bryan Fazio covers USF men’s basketball and can be reached at email@example.com