Jeff Scott: The era of infrastructure

The 88,000-square-foot indoor practice facility is located on Sycamore Drive, behind the Frank Morsani Football Complex. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Former coach Jeff Scott’s USF career record was 4-26 — the lowest in program history. But he helped lay a foundation for USF Athletics that is on track for what Director of Athletics Michael Kelly envisions to be the future of the department, Kelly said in a Tuesday press conference.

“The record obviously is something none of us are proud of,” Kelly said. “We will look back on the Jeff Scott era of at least some things that we put in place that the next coach is going to be really pleased about.”

A few projects to improve USF Athletics infrastructure were initiated during Scott’s tenure, including the indoor practice facility — which the football team practiced in for the first time Wednesday, four days after Scott was fired.

Plans to build the $22 million practice facility were first announced in February 2021, but the idea had been roaming since 2017. Kelly’s initial goal was to have the football team practice in it before the 2022 season. However, the yearlong project turned into 14 months. 

No date for a ribbon-cutting ceremony has been announced yet, but the first public event scheduled to be hosted in the 88,000-square-foot facility is President Rhea Law’s inauguration Jan. 19, according to Associate Athletic Director for Communications Brian Siegrist.

Under Scott, the team also got a newly renovated locker room last summer as part of the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center’s $3.3 million renovation plan.

While the team is already benefiting from one physical byproduct from the Scott era, in about four years USF will possibly have its own on-campus stadium.

It has been about 14 months since Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford first announced intentions to build a stadium. Now that the planning committee has a construction firm, the design phase should be beginning soon. 

These larger projects that are part of Kelly’s small- and long-term goals for USF Athletics were initiated during Scott’s tenure, and Kelly credits much of the department’s progress to him.

“When you look back at the history of USF football, you’re going to look at this time frame of Jeff, of getting us focused on the student-athlete and getting some tools in place that we’re going to be able to benefit from for a long long time,” Kelly said Tuesday.

Aside from being a fundraising partner for USF Athletics, as Kelly describes Scott, he has had the lowest record in program history.

So far this season, the Bulls are 1-8. In Scott’s nearly three-season career, USF has only won four games, only one of which was against a conference opponent. 

Last season, USF defeated Temple 34-14. But that same team came back to embarrass the favored-to-win Bulls in a 54-28 blowout on Saturday. 

“It falls on one person, me,” Scott said after Saturday’s game. “I’m in charge of everything. When it looks as bad as it does today, it’s on nobody’s shoulders but mine.”

It’s not uncommon for USF to fire a football head coach after less than three years, but of the three to be fired in program history for poor performance, none had such a low winning record in their final season. 

Charlie Strong was fired at the end of the 2019 season — his third at USF. He finished with a 4-8 record. The announcement came two days after a 34–7 loss to UCF.

At the end of Skip Holtz’s third season in 2012, the Bulls had a 3–9 record. At the time, that was the lowest in USF history. 

How did Scott get to be USF’s leading coach in losses? Here’s a look at each season with him in charge.

Scott signed to be coach in December 2019 through the end of the 2024 season. The team won its first game 27-6 against The Citadel, before a string of eight losses to end the season. The pandemic was put to blame for the poor inaugural campaign.

By the end of the 2021 season, USF doubled its win record, finishing 2-10. Its only victories were against Florida A&M and Temple, which gave the Bulls what remains as their only conference win since 2019. 

With just three games left in the 2022 season, USF is 1-8. The only win so far was Sept. 10 against Howard, 42-20. The Bulls have had a few close games, but poor play calls and not performing well in all four quarters kept them from making more scores.

The Bulls saw a sliver of hope on Sept. 17 against then-No. 18 UF, but came up short in the end after a botched snap and missed field goal, resulting in the 31-28 heartbreaker. But the following week, USF turned around and got blown out by Louisville 41-3.

On Oct. 8 against then-No. 24 Cincinnati, USF held another close game, but ended in a heartbreaking loss, 28-24.

In most games this season, USF has struggled to make more than two scores each quarter, and has let its opponents make as many as four in one quarter. In the first 15 minutes of the BYU game, the Cougars put 28 points on the board, while USF had zero.

Much of the Bulls’ struggles this season were attributed to injuries, as 21 guys have been out at some point in the past nine games, many of which were first string players.

Leading the injured group is junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Oct. 15 Tulane game. Taking his place is sophomore Katravis Marsh, who started his first game in three years at Houston on Oct. 29.

Marsh was Scott’s fourth starting quarterback in three seasons. He began with Cade Fortin in 2020, who was replaced before midseason by Timmy McClain. He remained the starter in 2021, but was replaced by Bohanon at the start of the 2022 season. 

Scott helped USF Athletics in some aspects that Kelly is appreciative of, he said in Tuesday’s press conference, but the lack of winning went on too long to not induce a change in leadership.

“It unfortunately just came to the point where … we couldn’t sustain the lack of winning at the same time to continue to keep the right perspective and optimism and hope alive,” Kelly said. “It’s just really a matter of timing and circumstance in my opinion for Jeff.”