Saying goodbye is never easy

You don’t say goodbye to three years.

That’s a rule – at least it should be.

This is my final writing assignment as part of the Oracle – three years of busting my butt to objectively cover USF and its athletics.

I thankfully graduate in a week, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I’ve learned a lot in my time spent in this position.

In this three-year tenure, I was lucky enough to be sports editor for two and a half. Perhaps at professional newspapers a sports editor may not do as much reporting as I have done, but I had to be a reporter, or else I wouldn’t have learned my trade.

Working as a reporter – embedded in football, basketball, baseball and all the rest – has left me with not only a different view of college sports, but USF as well.

It’s not a bad one.

I have no problem with USF – never really have.

Some of my critics may think so, but I don’t.

As a matter of fact, after three years of walking around the Athletic Facility, dealing with the coaches – new and old – I feel that while the department might have a few bureaucratic bumps here and there, like any well-oiled machine, it’s making the right strides.

I think athletic director Doug Woolard has made some important hires in the past year. These notables include men’s basketball’s Stan Heath and baseball’s Lelo Prado, as well as women’s soccer’s Denise Schilte-Brown and women’s tennis’ Agustin Moreno.

And by the way, congratulations to Woolard and the women’s tennis team for capturing USF’s first Big East title.

I feel like this column should be a list of well-deserved thank yous, but I wanted to focus on everything I’ve learned – on how I’ve grown as a sports reporter and how I’ve learned that sports, coaches, players, fans, administration, practices, games, hits, touchdowns, baskets, pads, dugouts, fields, soccer balls, goals – everything all goes together somehow.

I’ve learned how fans embrace their college to become rabid fans that control the destiny of a college program that has yet to set its traditions.

I’ve seen these traditions start. I’ve been watching USF sports since 2001 – actually, since 1997 when the football program started and I was just a freshman in high school. I’ve seen how everything done at football and basketball games is more homegrown than a minor-league baseball team.

It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but in a few years, USF will be nationally recognized. If you want a prediction from me, the football team will win the Big East title in quarterback Matt Grothe’s senior year.

I think the Bulls have made leaps and bounds, and each small step will eventually lead to the large step of becoming a major force in Florida college sports.

In the near future – five-plus years – there will not be one USF sport that will be considered an “embarrassment” to the school.

So maybe I sound like a homer. I’m not trying to. I just think things are on the way to being better than I’ve seen in my tenure.

I’ve seen many great things happen for such an infant of a program – two bowl games, tournament berths, deep postseasons, professional drafts for honorable athletes from USF, but most importantly, growth.

I will continue to remain objective concerning USF sports. They will never be considered a “we” or an “us,” because that would impair my professionalism.

However, and I say this to all the friends I’ve made either by interviewing them or working with them at games and to the countless numbers of people I’ve met just working in the Oracle office:

I will always look to see what’s happening with USF.

It would be impossible for me not to. It would be like removing a part of my body that, while not exactly vital, would still leave me feeling just a bit empty.

It would be like saying goodbye to an old friend – one whose face I’ve grown accustomed to.

I guess I just can’t.