I was at a bunch of USF practices yesterday. I dropped in on women's basketball getting ready for their WNIT game tonight against George Washington, saw baseball getting ready for Cinci this weekend, and softball before they head to Rutgers. I also had a meeting with our volleyball team about their golf tournament on April 11th at Feather Sound, my 12th year on their fundraising committee ($150 per player, $600 per foursome, email me if you want to join us).
All anyone wanted to talk about was Steve Masiello. How could this happen? How could we USF it again? Was it even our fault in the first place? Who will end up being the new coach? I made some compulsory jokes with a few of our coaches that I'd need to see their diplomas or else I'd be writing about them extensively, and everyone could tell I hadn't slept in forever (finding out about stomach punch coaching moves at 12:30am isn't good for the Circadian clock with which I struggle anyway).
I live in South Tampa so as per usual when I head to USF I took I-275 North, exited on Fowler Ave., and made a left at the Sun Dome entrance. I parked at the Sun Dome, headed to the volleyball meeting, then wandered through the facilities of the Southeast quadrant of campus until I drove home. I didn't see one kid walking to class. I didn't meet one professor, and I didn't see anyone studying. Like so many alumni, the athletics side of the institution is now where I focus the overwhelming majority of my attention.
It's so easy to get lost in the bubble of teams and wins and losses that you forget why we're playing the damn games in the first place: student-athletes (and with the teams I saw yesterday, those words are almost always in the correct order) playing to represent an academic institution. Learning is why we are there are Bulls to cheer for in the first place. Degrees matter.
USF made the right decision in not hiring Steve Masiello. He perpetrated a fraud by representing that he had accomplished the overriding goal of being an undergraduate student. It doesn't make him a bad person: I know lots of people that say they've graduated from college when they haven't, and I think many people would be shocked at how often this happens. I won't call them out publicly but there are a lot of USF "alumni" that don't actually have the degree, and this is a more common problem than you think. But in 2014, it's astonishing he moved that far forward in his career in such a public profession without ever being caught.
In my case at one point I had to get a letter saying I had completed all of USF's coursework, but didn't actually have the diploma because I had a transcript glitch and I didn't pay copious amounts of parking tickets (which in a way makes me the full embodiment of the USF experience: U Stay Forever, nowhere to park and late for class). I also walked across the stage at commencement still owing a paper for a class I had an incomplete in... one that I ended up not writing because I was working beyond full-time, and ended up taking a CLEP test instead to get the credit needed.
But I did get it done, if for no other reason than I knew eventually someone would check. How can you hand over $6 million to someone that doesn't think anyone would ever look??
Could USF have bent the rules to make Masiello their coach? Possibly. He played four years of college basketball and was an All-SEC Academic selection, so he's most likely very close to being a college graduate. But should they? Absolutely not. A degree is the overriding reason people attend the University of South Florida. It has value to those who have earned it, and allowing someone to perpetrate a similarly accredited credential they've haven't acquired for 14 years without penalty devalues it to those (like myself) that went back and made sure all the i's were dotted and t's were crossed.
USF absolutely did the right thing here. There are still problems with the way the situation was handled, but the people that should be thoroughly embarrassed are The University of Louisville and Manhattan College. USF did a much better job vetting one of their highest-profile staff members than both schools. Should we have done more vetting before we handed him a contract? Probably. But it appears the contract had language which made it contingent on Masiello having the degree he said he did. This wasn't a problem with his background: it was a problem with his resume. And as we've learned with a football coach to our east, you should pay a significant price for lying on those. Like living in Oviedo and having to deal with heathen fans.
There are certainly issues with the way the Bulls handled the situation. They let their fans think this was done due to media reports from everywhere, then saw the carpet get pulled out from underneath them via a story published at 12:30am. And I know for a fact they knew about this far earlier in the day but just let it hang in the air as a done deal. It's a 24-hour-a-day media cycle nowadays, one in which the Bulls fully and readily participate in many ways, i.e. official Twitter accounts are sending out updates every half-inning and media timeout, alerts for 3pm press conferences going out at 12 p.m, etc. I also often get attaboys or corrections on things I write in real time from the school, as does everyone that covers the Bulls.
Letting us and other outlets write what a home run it was to bring Masiello to Tampa and how there would be excitement in the air, then letting it sit there all day as not a peep telling us to settle down or "hey, this isn't a done deal" came from the Selmon Center was wrong. I understand the need for discretion in a coaching search, but letting all of those things percolate all day and acting like things weren't happening around them was completely the wrong approach.
And speaking of wrong approaches, I wrote this yesterday, and I went too far. Call it hubris, overreach, the $4 sangrias at Ceviche on Tapas Tuesday, or just having almost two decades of watching USF fuck it up over and over under my belt. But I went in too hard without enough information. This is the first time in over four years of writing here that I've had to apologize for something I've written. USF and Eastman & Beaudine clearly made mistakes here, but not to the extent I wrote yesterday. I turned it up to 11 when only a 5-6 was needed. I'm sorry. I took the word "renege" out of the headline with a correction at the bottom, but left the rest as is as a testament to my stupidity.
Whomever the new coach is now starts behind the eight ball, as does Mark Harlan. This was a major botch that happened on Harlan's second day on the job and on the first major hire of his career. And everyone now knows that the new coach isn't the first choice, which limits his impact and cache. Plus not everyone in the local media is as reflective about this as I am, so you're even further behind than before in terms of perception.
But there's only one way out of this, and that's to nail this hire. As far as who is left on the coaching carousel that can do it, we'll get to that later today.