When: Tonight, 7Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: ESPN 360/1250 AM
There’s no doubt tonight’s game will be the last at the Sun Dome for USF players Melvin Buckley, McHugh Mattis, Chris Capko and Melvyn Richardson. The four will be honored before the Bulls host Providence in what will be senior night.
But what about coach Robert McCullum?
Just before USF’s 7-22 (1-15 in Big East) season ended last year, The Tampa Tribune reported a group of prominent USF boosters wanted McCullum’s contract to end early, hoping for former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins to take over.
However, Athletic Director Doug Woolard quickly stopped any rumors that McCullum’s six-year contract would be cut short.
At the start of this season, McCullum and his players were confident they’d earn a spot in the 12-team conference tournament in New York, but after five straight losses, the highest the Bulls can finish in the Big East is 13th place.
McCullum said after practice Tuesday that it’s not up to him to say what his future at USF looks like.
“I’m not one to assess (my future at USF). That’s the responsibility of the administration,” said McCullum, whose contract expires after the 2009 season. “Doug Woolard does mention on a number of occasions he evaluates each coach at the end of the season, so I’m sure at some point when the season is over that we’ll sit down and discuss it.”
Woolard will attend both the men’s and women’s Big East tournaments, which take place over the next two weekends, and although the Bulls failed to qualify for the tournament for the second straight year, McCullum said he was never told USF had to make it to the tournament this season for him to keep his job.
“That’s a difficult measuring stick. It may be used in some places, but for most of the Division I basketball conferences across the country, everyone goes to the tournament anyway,” said McCullum, who is 84-119 in nearly four seasons at USF. “If making the tournament was a measuring stick, then obviously we failed in that respect, but that was never mentioned.”
One of McCullum’s biggest struggles since coming to USF in 2003 has been winning on the road. During his tenure, the Bulls are 21-66 on the road, and they haven’t won a conference road game since joining the Big East last season.
Road struggles aside, McCullum has found success against ranked opponents. Under McCullum, USF has beaten four ranked teams, including a 69-63 win against then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Feb. 3 that put the Bulls in a good position to grab a tournament spot. However, USF hasn’t won a game since upsetting the Fighting Irish.
The Bulls have five more wins than last year’s team, and they’ve tripled their wins in conference play. With the season finale coming on the road against DePaul on Saturday, USF still has a chance to add two more wins to its record, but McCullum hopes his job security doesn’t rely on the final games of the 2006-07 season.
“I would hate to think that any coach’s future or the future of a program to some degree would hinge on the outcome of two or three games,” McCullum said. “I don’t know that the outcome of these last two or three games (make) me a better or worse coach, so what that means is you’ll look at the overall season and how much progress we’ve made given the circumstances, the obstacles we’ve had to deal with.”