This column space was supposed to be reserved for the Tony Awards – a bunch of made-up accolades to acknowledge the best and worst of USF athletics.
But since this is possibly my final column, I am changing my mind mid-opinion. I could thank all those around for a super spring semester or I could go out Half-Baked style.
My main issue is the celebration of mediocrity that is USF athletics and its lack of attention to its students.
A coach has a .500 record and gets an extension. Another coach wins one conference game and gets apologists and support.
Let’s start at the top.
In a St. Petersburg Times article published May 23, 2004, broadcaster Bob Costas talked about Athletic Director Doug Woolard.
“He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t come into the room and blow everybody away,” Costas said.
While Woolard may be a class act, he lacks the youthful exuberance USF needs.
Woolard’s low-key personality runs deep into the athletic programs he presides over.
Basketball coach Robert McCullum is a man much like Woolard – probably a decent guy, but just not right for USF.
USF becomes the laughingstock of Big East basketball, and McCullum gets an endorsement? With a USF record of 28-58, McCullum and the Bulls would have to win out the regular season next year just for him to be considered an average coach in terms of record.
If the Athletic Department wants to ignore winning, then focus some energy on building fan support.
According to Gatorzone.com, an athletics Web site for the University of Florida, football coach Urban Meyer met with every campus organization leader individually in a personal setting following his arrival at UF.
That’s something you might never see out of a certain football coach here.
Sometimes a coach who lives and breathes only football isn’t as great as he sounds. Jim Leavitt is the last person I would phone on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, the last person I would ask to program my car stereo clock, and the last person I’d turn to for non-football advice.
USF needs just one guy.
Just one charismatic coach or athletic director could make the difference. Meyer’s connection with students shows. The UF Spring Game attracted 45,000, an attendance number USF has rarely reached in regular-season games.
Many will say those are unrealistic expectations for USF, but those people are part of the problem. The Athletic Department’s indifference seems to have been passed on to students.
There’s no reason this school can’t be decent at basketball. There’s no reason people can’t show up to free games. There’s no reason USF can’t be a respectable school, and there’s no reason the value of my USF degree should be measured in pesos.
But it is – and I can’t explain it or fix it. I can just take my degree and try to find a job somewhere. Just like I’m supposed to.