USF’s sweeping coach extensions were premature for some
USF has jumped the gun in giving lucrative contract extensions to some of its marquee coaches, namely its football and men’s basketball coaches who have had little to no success during their time with the Bulls.
Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly announced Jan. 4 that he and the university decided to hand out sweeping contract extensions to 14 of its head coaches, with some lasting until 2027.
Headlining the group were football coach Jeff Scott, men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory, women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez, softball coach Ken Eriksen and women’s soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown.
Eriksen, Fernandez and Schilte-Brown were due for a new contract as they led their teams to multiple successful seasons. Fernandez and Schilte-Brown both won AAC titles last year while Eriksen’s program is a perennial title contender.
However, for Scott and Gregory, who have yet to reach a sustained level of success while at USF, the extensions are premature.
Gregory is in his fifth year as coach of the Bulls and has had just one winning season, which came in 2018-19. Rather than building upon that success, he just ended the worst year of his tenure.
The men’s basketball team finished the season 8-23, bottom of the conference standings. It was also one of the worst offensive teams in the country, ranking third-worst in scoring and dead last in all of Division I in three-point percentage and field goal percentage.
Meanwhile, since being hired in 2020, Scott has won just three games over his two seasons at the helm of the football program. His teams have consistently ranked in the bottom three of the AAC in most major offensive and defensive statistics.
In fairness to the two coaches, their time at the school has not come without some challenges. Scott is having to deal with NCAA sanctions because of violations committed under former coach Charlie Strong.
The sanctions include losing two football scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year.
Gregory has faced adversity of his own as his team experienced a mass exodus of players due to allegations of racist comments against former assistant coach Tom Herrion. As a result, the program basically had a completely new team from the previous season with 10 incoming players on a roster of 15.
While there is an argument that having stability and continuity in the USF athletics programs can lead to future success, that idea should be saved for programs that have shown improvement instead of regression.
Now, if USF doesn’t want to fire Gregory and Scott, that’s fine. It doesn’t have to. But it should have waited another season or so before it decided to extend their contracts, as both still had years remaining on their original deals.
Gregory’s original contract ran through the end of the 2023 basketball season and Scott’s was through 2024. They both received extensions until 2026.
USF needs to stop investing resources into coaches that haven’t brought success and instead have the patience to see if said coaches show any promise in the latter years of their contracts before considering an extension.
If Scott and Gregory continue on the trajectory they’ve been on, it won’t only be a waste of money, it’ll likely lead to both coaches receiving contract buyouts after being released. Such a misguided blunder will leave the university’s decision-makers looking foolish.
Right now it feels Kelly and the Athletics Department are rewarding the mediocrity of the football and basketball program over the last few years. That isn’t a mark of a department with high ambitions for the future.