When USF football coach Willie Taggart stepped up to the lectern at the new restaurant of Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, he had an important announcement to make: a former Bull was returning home.
He also had a question.
“What are you going to do when Hulk Mania and Bulls Mania goes wild on you, baby?”
Hogan fans gathered Tuesday at Hogan’s local restaurant, Hogan’s Beach, for a press conference announcing the stop of Hogan’s company, TNA Impact Wrestling, in Tampa as part of a nationwide tour on May 23.
“This is a huge deal for us,” Hogan said. “For TNA Impact to come to Tampa, my hometown, it’s a huge deal.”
Trent Merritt, general manager of the Sun Dome, said when they made the decision to spend about $35 million on renovations two years ago, TNA Impact Wrestling was the type of event they envisioned.
Merritt said the Sun Dome is thrilled, and that the response that he has received from the Tampa area and USF community has been overwhelming.
“People feel a connection to Hulk Hogan in this area,” Merritt said. “Hulk Hogan is a true native to the Tampa area and he is a true USF Bull. We look forward to the Sun Dome being a home away from home for Hulk and the rest of the TNA team for years to come.”
Before he became the “Hulk,” he attended USF. He said he spent his college days playing bass in a band Ruckus, and that he was beginning to think about getting into wrestling.
Hogan said he started his college career as a business major before switching to majoring in music.
“The macro- and microeconomics became a little too much for me,” he said. “I hate to say it, but (USF) was a good study atmosphere but also a nice party atmosphere.”
Hogan said he still has great memories of USF.
“I don’t know what the campus is like now,” he said. “But back in the day, many, many, many years ago, it was just fun to be there.”
Though Hogan stepped away from college to follow other dreams — his 2009 autobiography “My Life Outside the Ring” said he “quit (school) four or five times … until (he) finally just didn’t go back” — he said he encourages students contemplating the same decision to stick it out and make education their main focus.
“You can always go back (to school),” Hogan said. “But those chances are too few and far between. I wouldn’t throw away my education unless it was a super huge, special opportunity that was right in front of me.”
Taggart said he is a fan of Hogan, and Hogan’s decision to follow his dream paid off for Hogan.
“Hulk is a childhood hero of mine,” Taggart said. “I can remember on Saturdays, before I would play football, I had to watch WWF before I would go out and play. I had to see the Hulk.”
During the press conference, Taggart presented Hogan with an honorary Bulls football jersey with a No. 1 and Hogan’s name on the back.
“Even though I didn’t graduate?” Hulk asked.
“Even though, baby,” Taggart said. “You’re already with us.”