Golesh, Kelly emphasize building culture ahead of upcoming season

Luncheon host and former USF linebacker Sam Bellington (left) and head coach Alex Golesh (right) gave guests a glimpse into what fans can expect in the 2023 season. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Though USF is rebuilding in many senses, Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said he is optimistic about the football team’s trajectory because of the investments being made in the program.

“The future is extremely bright for our athletic program. The thing about the summer that excited me the most and really this whole year has been our facilities,” Kelly said. 

“The investment that our donors here, that our university has made in facilities from top to bottom…we’ve never had as much activity going on as this year.”

USF Football Kickoff Luncheon, which was held at The Gathering at Armature Works on Friday, is an annual event where fans can buy individual or group tables and sit next to players on the 2023 roster. It allows guests to hear from figures within the athletics department and is intended to build anticipation and optimism for the upcoming season.

This year marked its fourth installment and the second consecutive year it sold out.

Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said the on-campus stadium will transform the football program and the entire university. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

In front of 530 attendees, Kelly said the school’s initiative to improve its athletic facilities shows a commitment to building a winning culture for its sports programs — especially football. Over the past eight months, USF has opened its indoor practice facility and approved taking on $200 million in debt for an on-campus stadium. 

Head coach Alex Golesh and his staff have used these investments to their advantage in recruiting. Currently, they boast the highest-ranked 2024 recruiting class among Group of Five conference schools.

The Bulls also brought in 49 new players for this season. With many new faces on the team, Golesh said integrating them has been a fascinating process throughout the summer.

However, Golesh commended the way the new players have picked up schemes during fall camp and the level of “buy-in” attitude he’s gotten from the ones that stayed from the Jeff Scott era.

“I think our guys have really done an incredible job,” Golesh said. “I said last night at our team meeting that the last 11 days [of fall camp] have been really, really fascinating, [and] how they’ve been able to come in and accept everybody that’s new, and just go to work.”

Finding the right people that mesh well in the locker room was also considered too. Since arriving on campus, Golesh said he aims to instill team virtues such as accountability and integrity.

Senior defensive end Immanuel Hickman(left) and sophomore offensive lineman Mike Lofton (right) represented the Bulls as ambassadors during the event. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Sophomore offensive lineman Mike Lofton and senior defensive end Immanuel Hickman discussed their experience getting to know the new coaching staff and building a brotherhood with the team during the event. 

Lofton said he’s enjoyed fostering connections and building camaraderie amongst his teammates. 

“Since I’ve been here, this is probably the closest I’ve ever seen the guys be together,” Lofton said. 

Hickman, who transferred from ECU in April, said he was excited to put in the work to bring on-the-field success back to USF.

“We work hard, we’re relentless and we’re doing what we got to do to change the program around. So we promise this season will be the best season thus far because we’re putting the work in,” he said.