USF Athletics formally introduced its new VP of Athletics, formerly Athletic Director, Friday afternoon at the Sun Dome.
Michael Kelly met with the public for the first time since being announced in the new role earlier in the week. Kelly is no stranger to USF, having previously worked under Lee Roy Selmon in the early 2000s.
“It’s very special for me to be able to have this opportunity in light of the relationship … with Lee Roy Selmon,” Kelly said. “The fact that I can somehow sit in a similar chair to him, in a building that’s named after him, is not lost on me.”
Kelly said the biggest thing he learned from Selmon — who led USF Athletics from 2001-04 — was to engage the community.
“No one was a better engager than Lee Roy Selmon,” Kelly said. “He listened, he cared. That’s what I mainly learned from him and that’s what I want our whole department to emulate. How do we engage with this community and make them feel good about everything they touch about the University of South Florida?”
In addition to his time at USF under Selmon, Kelly had a hand in numerous events involving the Tampa Bay Area. Including, the 1999 Final Four held at Tropicana Field and Super Bowl XXXV at Raymond James Stadium in 2001. Kelly was also the COO of the College Football Playoff (CFP) for the 2017 National Championship Game held in Tampa.
“Tampa Bay feels like home,” Kelly said. “There’s so many memories — with the Final Four, with the Super Bowl here… and, of course, most recently, with the 2017 CFP National Championship Game that was hosted so successfully here with the leadership of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.”
While Kelly’s first priority will be getting to know everybody on his staff — or to “drink water from a firehose over the next 90-100 days,” as Kelly put it — he will also inherit unfinished business from his predecessor, Mark Harlan, such as building both an on-campus football stadium and an indoor football facility.
“The first call I made after (my hire) was official was to talk to coach (Charlie) Strong,” Kelly said. “It seems like he and mine’s opinion are aligned. I think the stadium is something that we’ve got to continue to explore.
“At the same token, we’ve got to get this USF Football Center built. That’s going to make our football program stronger and sustainable. Once we do that, then simultaneously, we’ll learn more and figure out what’s best for the stadium. But right now, our priority is on the USF Football Center.”
At some point in the future, Kelly will likely be tasked with the job of getting USF back into a power conference. But he doesn’t see leaving the AAC as priority one just yet.
“Frankly, right now, what we want to make sure we focus on is being the very best that we can be,” Kelly said. “We’re in a great league right now. How do we dominate that league to the best of our ability? That’s got to be our goal right now. And when we do that — and when we build the tradition one champion at a time — we’ll be the best positioned school of anyone in the country if anything else happens.”