USF leads AAC in Director’s Cup, but not much else

With a year under his belt as athletic director, Mark Harlan has helped USF's athletics improve – except the two most important teams. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The final standings of the 2014-15 Learfield Director’s Cup were released Thursday, and while USF led its conference for the first time in school history, the accomplishment felt more like Rocky winning the Capitol One Mascot Challenge than a true reflection of USF’s standing in the AAC.


The Learfield Director’s Cup awards schools based on postseason success in 10 different men’s and women’s sports selected before the season. USF’s point total of 257.75 edged out UConn by 2.75 points and ranks them 73rd out of 347 schools.


This is certainly a sign of good things to come, as eight Bulls teams reached postseason competition and the school’s score was its highest since the 2000-01 season.


With just over a year on the job, Athletic Director Mark Harlan was rightfully pleased with the school’s success compared to the rest of the AAC.


“I am so proud of what our student-athletes, coaches and support staff accomplished this season,” Harlan said in a statement. “You can feel the momentum building in USF Athletics and everyone involved believes there is no limit to the great things we can achieve. Frankly, we feel like we left a few points out there, but this is a strong start to where we want to take USF Athletics and the great achievements on the road ahead.”


But the momentum Harlan has spent the past year building will be all for naught if he can’t find a way to help his two most influential and important teams reach the postseason.


Despite the school’s success in nearly every other sport, the football team is still desperate to reach a bowl game for the first time under coach Willie Taggart and the men’s basketball team struggled to compete in conference games all of last season.


Both coaches are still relatively new to their positions, with Taggart entering his third year and coach Orlando Antigua his second, but they inherited the swelling anticipation of the Bulls’ fanbase behind both programs because of the previous losing seasons of their predecessors.


But that anticipation has slowly morphed into frustration, and it’s visible in the stands.


The Bulls’ football team reached rock bottom in attendance in 2014, averaging 19,317 fans per game and the men’s basketball team struggled to fill the lower bowl of the Sun Dome on most nights.


While USF seems to be turning the corner in almost every other sport, the two most profit-generating teams on campus are hindering the Bulls’ momentum to regain their fan base and place atop of the AAC in more than just the Learfield Director’s Cup.


A more realistic picture of USF’s standing in the AAC is painted by the NCAA finance report of 2014, which was released earlier this month.


USF brought in just over $48 million in athletic revenue, but ranks fifth behind UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF.


Those programs, unlike USF, have recently sustained success in either football or men’s basketball.


As Harlan said, the Bulls are making progress in the right direction, but without the success of football and men’s basketball, USF won’t be finding its name at the top of any lists that matter.