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Sixty years in the making

The USF Sun Dome first opened for a basketball game in November of 1980 but wasn’t finished until January of 1981.

1956-1966: First commencement ceremonies

In December of 1963, 326 students graduated from USF as part of the first graduating class. The first student, Barbara Campbell Johnson, was married with a family. In the documentary “Green and Gold: a Half Center of USF” by WUSF, Johnson said most of the first students were in a similar situation, with families to care for.

1967-76: USF’s second president Cecil Mackey pushes the school to focus on research

Cecil Mackey served as USF President from 1971-1976 and started pushing the school toward more research.

1977-86: Sun Dome opens

The USF Sun Dome first opened in November of 1980 for a sold-out basketball game against Florida A&M University, which USF lost. However, the building was still under construction and not scheduled to be completed until January of 1981. As such, some improvising was required in order to host the game there. 

1987-96: Betty Castor becomes USF President

In 1994, Betty Castor became the first female president. During her time as president, USF gained Research I designation and endowment tripled to just over $200 million. She expanded the Honors College and pushed for international exchange programs.

1997-2006: First football game

The first USF football game took place on Sept. 6, 1997 and kicked off a season. The game pulled out 49,212 spectators. The team was ranked Division I-AA. The game, held at the Tampa Stadium — then called the   Stadium — resulted in an 80-3 win for the Bulls.

2007-2016: MSC construction

Construction for the current Marshall Student Center was completed in 2008. The $65 million edifice was built to offer dining and study space for students. However, the original student center, the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, was opened in 1960 and was one of the first five buildings on campus. Both buildings pay respect to the former director after her retirement.


Did you know?

  • The USF Tampa campus was built just north of Henderson Air Field, an auxiliary airfield to MacDill during World War II, when the Florida Cabinet approved the land for the university. The first buildings were constructed on a bombing practice range.
  • The school became the “University of South Florida” because it was the southernmost state university when it was named in 1957.
  • USF was the state’s first metropolitan university.
  • USF beat Florida Southern’s men’s soccer team in 1965 in the school’s first intercollegiate sports event.
  • Before the Oracle started publishing in 1966, school news was found in the campus edition of the Tampa Daily Times.
  • Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity was founded in 1967 as the first Greek organization on campus.
  • USF basketball played its first game in 1970 and won, 85-78.
  • The College of Arts and sciences was created in 1991 by combining the Colleges of Arts & Letters, Natural Sciences, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
  • Judy Genshaft is the sixth USF President, the first System President and started in 2000.
  • The Board of Trustees approved USF to become a system in 2004.