It’s a little less than nine months before his first game as USF head coach, but Jeff Scott arguably recorded his first victory Wednesday morning in his introductory press conference.
Introduced alongside his family to much fanfare by the Herd of Thunder Marching Band at the USF Alumni Center on campus, the Clemson co-offensive coordinator turned fifth head football coach in Bulls history struck all the right chords with the capacity crowd — which included many current and former USF players, as well as several Clemson coaches, including Scott’s fellow co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott — in his nearly 20-minute introductory speech, including the story of how he first learned he was being eyed for the job he had “circled” for some time already.
“It was about 11:30 at night, and [Clemson coach Dabo Swinney] called me, and he said, ‘Hey, boy, whatcha doin’?'” Scott said. “‘I’m at home coach, getting ready to get a shower and get some rest.’ And he said, ‘You’re not going to believe who just called me. … Michael Kelly at the University of South Florida just called me.’
“And he said, ‘Let me tell you. This is one of them jobs you want. Great university, great location, great conference, great recruiting base right in your backyard, you can win there and they have a great athletic director in Michael Kelly.’
“And to be honest, that’s all I needed to hear. From that point on, I was focused on trying to go get that job.”
Scott didn’t need to try hard to get the job, as it was made abundantly clear he was the first choice for it.
“Coach Scott is unequivocally our first and only choice as the head football coach,” USF President Steven Currall said, adding that he and Kelly worked in tandem on the search process, including spending time Sunday night in Scott’s home in South Carolina.
Scott set out his five-point plan for turning around what he called “not a broken program,” but one reminiscent of Clemson when Swinney took over in 2008.
“I believe that USF needs to be United from Start to Finish,” Scott said. “We will create the unity by focusing our football program in five key areas: No. 1 — common purpose and vision; No. 2 — trust and respect; No. 3 — communication; No. 4 — building a family atmosphere; and No. 5 — having a genuine appreciation for each other.”
Continuing on the theme of being united, Scott added that he wanted to unite the entire university — students, faculty and staff — around the program — as well as the Tampa Bay area as a whole.
“I think it’s very important that our Tampa Bay area is united around this football program,” Scott said. “I think a big part of that is from myself and our players really being involved in the community. And I plan, with my wife and our coaches, to be out there and be a part of the great Tampa Bay community — that’s one of the reasons that attracted me to this job. … It’s just a wonderful place, so many wonderful people, and I cannot wait to engage in the Bay area with our players, coaches, recruiting, fundraising and community service.”
Recruiting will have a Tampa Bay area focus for Scott and his staff — though who that staff is comprised of remains to be seen. Scott will meet with current staff members over the weekend before making any hires.
“Our recruiting is going to go inside out,” Scott said. “It’s going to start right here, in Tampa, and there’s so many great football players and great coaches right here in this area. We’re going to do an outstanding job of knowing who all of them are. … I think after we look at the Tampa area and surrounding communities, then it’s going to start with the state of Florida. The state of Florida has the best high school football of anywhere in the entire country.
“It’s kind of like when you go grocery shopping, you don’t drive across town. You go right down the road to the grocery store. And that’s all we have to do right here.”
Scott, who said practically everything right in his first appearance at USF, ended his speech on a high note as well.
“In about 20 days, we’re getting ready to start a new decade,” Scott said. “And I firmly believe that if we come together, we unite, that this will be the start of the best decade in the University of South Florida football history.”