Sometimes, what didn’t happen is just as important as what did. Before we talk about what didn’t happen in USF Athletics in 2016, let’s give a g-nod to the pioneer of this type of reporting:
5. Impact transfers did not contribute to USF’s football success.
USF’s 2016 football team was expected to be bolstered by transfers. Instead, AJ Legree (pre-season ACL tear), Glen Bethel (eligibility), Reilly Gibbons (career-ending injury), and Ashiantii Woulard (left team for reasons unknown) didn’t play a down for USF this season. Cecil Cherry had 30 tackles as a defensive reserve and special teams player, including a devastating hit on the opening kickoff against Memphis, but left the program after the regular season. Maybe it’s just as well, since his former Texas coach Charlie Strong became USF’s head coach days later.
As it turned out, USF got great performances out of its returning players at these positions. Wide receiver was so deep that players like Chris Barr and Darnell Salomon saw little action. Offensive linemen Kofi Amichia and Dominique Threatt raised their play to all-conference levels. Quinton Flowers stayed healthy, and Brett Kean beat out Woulard for the backup position anyway.
USF found much-needed transfer help in an unexpected place: special teams. We were genuinely concerned about the kicking game preseason. But Jonathan Hernandez (Florida State) won the punting role from returnee Brent Gordon, and won our hearts as Large Adult Punter. When Emilio Nadelman got hurt, USF turned to Brandon Behr (Jacksonville University). Behr’s longest made field goal was 33 yards, but he made all his extra points, kicked off almost as well as Nadelman, and kept the position out of the #CollegeKickers abyss. Most schools would not weather the loss of a quality starting kicker so well. Here’s our pre-season look at Hernandez and Behr.
4. USF football did not play in the AAC Championship Game.
USF was one second away from winning the East Division.
You don’t remember that moment? That’s because it wasn’t from a USF game.
On October 15, C. Florida took an early 25-7 lead against Temple, and were clinging to a 25-19 lead late. Temple needed to drive 70 yards in 30 seconds. With ten seconds to play, they had moved the ball to the UCF 8-yard line. (Skip to 3:55 in the below video.)
With that play, Temple won the division. If UCF had held on to win that game, the first official War on I-4 would have decided the East Division. USF would have been 6-1 going into that game, and would win the division outright at 7-1 to Temple’s 6-2. UCF would have been 5-2, and would win a three-way tie at 6-2 by having beaten both Temple and USF.
Yes, I know USF could have taken care of this themselves by winning at Temple. But as we explored here, 7-1 is usually enough to win a division. Having it not happen because another divisional game was stolen on the last play was a bit of bad luck.
Winning a conference championship, or at least the East Division, seemed a natural next step for USF in 2016. It didn’t happen - nor did they beat Florida State - but the Bulls had their best season anyway.
3. Plies did not hold a tailgate at the Florida State game.
On the eve of the FSU game, Florida-based rapper and USF supporter Plies tweeted at length about the party he was going to throw:
I'm Throwing Da Biggest Tailgate Party In Da City Next Weekend In Tampa.. USF Vs FSU.. Everybody Invited!!! #StayTuned— Plies (@plies) September 18, 2016
Collin tells the whole story here. No tailgate materialized, no mea culpa was ever given, and Plies was reduced to crashing other peoples’ tailgates:
I'm Crashing Everybody Tailgate Party 2day... Tell Me What Lot Y'all In & I'm Pullin Up Bih.... #MyShitLit— Plies (@plies) September 24, 2016
He did garner some invites, but I’m not sure if Plies even appeared at the game. Which is too bad. USF doesn’t attract a lot of celebrity supporters, other than Major League Baseball figures who take in a basketball game during Spring Training, and mostly sit just around the Sun Dome looking bored. I hope Plies will continue to support the team after his friend Willie Taggart left for Oregon.
2. Troy Baxter did not sign with USF.
This one hurt.
Troy Baxter was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Orlando Antigua era. He was a Top 100 recruit, and remained committed to USF after his play in the summer circuit (and impressing Shaq in a slam dunk contest) raised his profile even more.
Just before school started, Baxter was released from his letter of intent, and promptly signed with UNLV. He gave this explanation to the Las Vegas media:
Cynics will note that Baxter’s change of heart coincides with the announcement of the academic fraud investigation into USF men’s basketball. And that he told our own Ryan Smith he was “100% committed” to USF the summer before.
In addition, Chris Perry was dismissed after last season, Jahmal McMurray was suspended and then left the team early in the new season, and Andres Feliz never joined the team either. All of which led to USF’s first non-story of 2017, which was “Orlando Antigua did not coach a game.”
1. The Big XII Conference did not expand.
This probably the biggest non-story for all of college athletics.
The Big XII Conference put on a beauty contest, including an elimination round, and then declined to select a winner.
It’s understandable that no candidate school was able to garner the necessary support. And there were economic obstacles. But Oklahoma president David Boren painted the conference into a corner at the beginning, by saying:
As if merely being smaller were a sign of inadequacy, or something.
But this was still a decent outcome. USF made the final rose ceremony, ahead of schools like East Carolina, Memphis, and UNLV, which is a good sign. With the Big XII’s grant of rights expiring in 2025, and streaming content making cable television (and its lucrative rights packages) more obsolete every year, USF will probably get another shot soon. The school has a few years to continue building its case to rejoin the elite level of college athletics.
Sometimes it’s good when things don’t happen.