How USF Built a Program (Hint: FL Kids)

Prepping for this week’s game against USF (calling it for WAER Sports. Viva Tampa!), you can’t help but notice two letters on the Bulls roster.

F and L.

Or, FL. Florida to be more specific. Everyone is from the Sunshine State. EVERYONE. Out of the 100+ players on the USF roster, only 15 aren’t from Florida. Of that 15, most are from Georgia.

Getting into he-said she-said is a futile exercise that usually ends in trouble, so we won’t talk about Jim Leavitt’s tarnished exit from Tampa.

But wow, did he really build a program. It’s a model for coaches who begin programs. He dug deep into the Florida roots and came out a winner. As simple as that plan sounds (of course you recruit your home state), it more difficult than many realize when you have to battle UF, FSU, and Miami on a daily basis, all of which are proven winners with national attention. Along with the stigma of the step-child school of the state, the Big East and a commuter campus.

Leavitt went in and established another power, and did it from the ground up. He deserves respect for that, at least. However, USF is at a crossroads.

Skip Holtz is in charge now, and all the grunt work it takes to establish a program has been taken care of for him. Ironic, considering Holtz was the mastermind behind building UConn and ECU in the last 15 years. But this time he needs to build off it, not rework it.

The Fizz discussed the recruiting potential this game provides the Orange in Florida. But look at it from Holtz’s end. He got tossed a softball in his first year as head coach of a Big East powerhouse.

The league sucks this year. It’s wide open. Pitt has underachieved, Cincinnati is 1-3 with a new coach, and Rutgers just lost to Tulane. If there was any year to come in, kick ass, and finally grab that elusive BCS bid, it’s now.

The Big East slate begins. USF has an established program and a new coach. As much as Doug Marrone needs a marquee victory, the future of the Bulls (a linear program that has had just one coach and one voice since it’s inception) is pretty relevant here, too.

It’s conference play and as much bashing as the league has taken, it still has an AQ. And there’s a lot of programs who could use it, USF and SU included. The door is wide open.

Posted: Ted Conroy


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