Sports editor Aaron Mammah interviewed women’s lacrosse coach Mindy McCord about preparing her inaugural team for scrimmages this year.
The first women’s lacrosse freshmen class wrapped up its first move-in day. What was that experience like?
McCord: It was so cool. We had a lot of players from the [men’s and women’s] soccer teams and our administration showed up so they helped move our first years in. And, this excitement on their faces, they’re starting a program from scratch. It was fun, it was fast and we were able to have the parents there to enjoy that experience with them.
You’re no stranger to the process of building programs. Did you share any advice or insight with your players on what that’s going to be like?
McCord: They get a chance to leave a legacy. So, when they’re my age, they can say they did something special that not everyone gets an opportunity to do. And I think they want that opportunity. That’s why they chose it.
Because you’re building a program, you have to be able to overcome adversity. You’ve got to be able to develop your game and be one of the very top teams in the country, which is the expectation of our department. So I think we want to build a great culture and the expectation is that they help us do that so we can recruit future Bulls to help us compete at the top of the NCAA level.
You’re set to begin competition in 2024-25. What can USF fans expect in 2023-24?
McCord: This is a great [educational moment] because we get to play this fall, all the month of October, the end of September, and then we’ll play exhibition games in the spring. Some will be home, some will be away. We’ll play at the Track and Field and Corbett stadiums, and we get to train. We get to train like we’re competing for a national championship but the score doesn’t count.
So I think they’ll see that we want to be in the community. We want to be serving our community [and] serving our school. We want to be gaining fans. We want to partner with [USF students] to build our fan base, so they want to come and have a great experience watching us play.
We are even going to do some Lacrosse 101 events where people can come out and we’ll teach you the rules.
How exciting will it be to be able to house your program in the on-campus stadium?
McCord: Football and lacrosse will reside in that stadium with our lacrosse operations facility. We’re looking forward to it. And we’re in our fourth recruiting class and they’re excited about the development of that because it’s a transformational place for all of us, students and employees, to have a place they can call home to come and have that on-campus experience.
One of the players on the roster is blazing a trail in the NIL space. Can you tell us about her?
McCord: Sophia Chapnick came from Clemson and she has one of the top deals out of any men’s and women’s lacrosse player in the country. Sophia has a great brand. She’s a mass communications major and she wants to go into broadcasting.
She chose this school because she felt the Tampa Bay area and the companies and organizations in this university could help her leverage her career and be able to find NIL opportunities.
She doesn’t just choose anything and it’s not about making money for her. It’s about putting purpose into what she chooses. So she doesn’t go with any company that doesn’t have her passion and purpose at the heart of what they do and that is like minded with her, which I like.
It’s huge for our student-athletes to be able to leverage that and be entrepreneurs in their 18 to 20s. But to be able to find top recruits like Sophia, we can leverage the Tampa Bay area and this amazing city. I’m sure a lot of students stay after they leave USF because Tampa is a great place to be.
You spoke about being elite. What does the word “elite” mean to you? And what does that word mean for this lacrosse team?
McCord: I mean, like it’s a goal for a university right? We want to be first class, we want to be elite in everything we do. We have the support of the university administrators, the leadership of the athletics leaders, and we want to build championship elite programs where all students can have an elite experience.
So what does that mean? It’s in the eye of the beholder, but it’s either you do it the best, or you don’t do it at all. And to me, coming to USF and being here for a year, this city and the partnerships with the professional sports all the way through the academic programs and the athletic support we get is truly elite compared to other programs in the country.