President of athletic booster defends McCullum, denies reports
In response to the several articles that have been published about a “prominent” booster club allocating nearly $1 million to oust men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum and hire former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, the primary president of the USF athletics booster club has spoken up.
President Mike Charles addressed several media outlets Tuesday to disclaim the articles published on SI.com and in the Tampa Tribune about a booster group wanting to buy out the remaining three years on McCullum’s contract.
But not only did Charles forcefully disclaim them, he reiterated that all boosters do not want to fire McCullum despite the Bulls having the nation’s second-longest losing streak and being two losses away from going winless in conference play.
“There are no negotiations,” Charles said of the reports that Huggins’ Cincinnati lawyer Richard Katz had been in contact with boosters about the buyout. “I support our coach and the coaching staff 100 percent, and I also feel (McCullum) will be the coach next season.”
While McCullum is 27-57 in three years at USF, his buyout will cost between $850,000 and $900,000. Charles says hiring a new coach would cost more than $1 million and goes against the philosophy of the Athletic Department.
“(Everyone) is familiar with the new facility we built (on campus),” Charles said. “It has the Academic Enrichment Center, which is very important part of our athletic program, to make sure (USF) athletes are students also.
“There will be no change. There’s no million dollars out there, there’s not negotiations with the Huggins handlers that anybody I know is aware of. There is nothing going on to hire Huggins.”Charles also said administration will sit down after the season and “evaluate the season like it does every season, like they do every year, whether (the team) wins one game or 25 games. They do it every year whether they are hiring or firing coaches.”
Charles also stated that “many other boosters have come forward to support McCullum” and have said they “are not part” of the movement to buy out the contract.
USF has, however, ousted a men’s basketball coach once before. On Jan. 15, 1980, according to an Oracle article, “a decision” to remove former coach Chip Conner was made “based on meetings with students, faculty, alumni and community supporters of the Bulls.” Conner, who had a 59-62 record in five years at USF, continued to receive paychecks until his contract expired in September 1980, but resigned after being told of the “decision” not to rehire him.
The next season, Lee Rose was hired, and he led the Bulls to their first-ever NIT Tournament berth as well as two other NITs and compiled a 106-69 record.
But Charles said he doesn’t believe the media are talking about “facts.” He believes most of what has been published has been “mostly hype” in which has been produced by people who “fantasize” about a “coach who doesn’t have a job and whose name is going to come up no matter if you’re in Florida or in Indiana.”
“People like to write stuff that’s more interesting,” Charles said. “I don’t think we’re talking about facts, because if we were, I would certainly know what was going on, and I’m telling you there are no grounds behind anything to hire a new coach. There are more boosters behind McCullum than there are against him.”