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Selmon’s hiatus reminds Tampa community, USF of his achievements

With Black History Month around the corner and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday less than a week away, remembering and celebrating African-American pioneers has been on the forefront of many minds. The USF community should not overlook one of their own legends in the making. Though Lee Roy Selmon is only taking a six-week sabbatical, the unlikelihood of his return is enough to have not only the university, but also the Tampa Bay area holding their breath.

It is almost impossible to measure Selmon’s contribution to USF’s athletic department and USF sports in general. Though an interim athletic director has not been announced, it is hard to picture anyone else filling Selmon’s shoes, should the position arise.

Selmon came to the USF campus in 1993 with aspirations for a football team. He was successful in soliciting enough funds for the team’s first game in 1997. The rest is history. He has seen the Bulls through Division I-AA to the lofty heights of the Big East and has played a major role in raising roughly $20 million for the athletic department in the past three years alone.

Aside from an apparent flair for fund raising and the credibility his name gives to USF athletics, the St. Petersburg Times credits Selmon as being the ideal figure to guide USF through the allegations of institutional racism that were hanging over it when Selmon took up the post of athletic director three years ago.

Once a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end, Selmon retired in 1986 along with his jersey number, 63 — the only jersey number to be retired by the Bucs. Not only was Selmon inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his performance at the University of Oklahoma, he became the first — and only — Buc to be inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. The City of Tampa acknowledged Selmon’s impact on the Bay area by renaming the South Tampa Crosstown Expressway after Selmon in 1996. And as of 2000, local patrons can feel like a part of Selmon’s family in his self-named restaurant.

His effect on USF’s athletic department, even USF as a whole, will be felt for generations. For a man to accomplish so much in under three decades is quite a feat and will be a hard act to follow.

Selmon announced that though his return as athletic director would be “highly unlikely,” he will continue to serve as President Judy Genshaft’s athletic and community relations partner.

Selmon said in his press release that it would be “an honor to continue representing USF athletics to the community…”

In this one thing he is mistaken. It is the Tampa Bay and USF communities that are honored that their lives have been touched by such a man.