I already knew it was time, but this is when it really hit me:
I was in New Orleans for the Tulane game in October. We got to campus early, set up our laptops in their press box, and then I ran over to the Alumni Association tailgate. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years... but then I had to head back to the stadium for a minute.
Then I went back to the tailgate, and then I went back to the stadium again. And then I was on the field pregame, and then... I realized I didn’t even get a chance to see my friends that flew in from all over the country. People I really wanted to hang out with and catch up and talk about jobs and families and friends and everything else.
And as I was running back and forth documenting everything about a fantastic event where the fans really showed up and showed out, I didn’t get to enjoy it. And it just... really, really sucked.
We started this thing because there was no outlet covering USF comprehensively and critically. The Tribune (RIP) and the Times ran gamers and box scores, but they didn’t think holistically about the program. Why the fans stopped coming. Why the facilities weren’t what they should be. Why the community failed to rally around USF, even when the Bulls were winning on the field.
They weren’t talking about the pittance salaries outside of the executive suite, or the massive amounts of interns roaming the halls of the Selmon Center. Or why the Sun Dome couldn’t ever get the naming rights sold. Or why what Ken Eriksen and Jose Fernandez did for the Bulls was borderline miraculous with the facilities and budgets they had. Or why Doug Woolard and Skip Holtz getting massive extensions was insanity.
That’s not their fault, as the limited resources of modern media was truly responsible. But we have always felt the Bulls deserved someone writing about a softball team on a heater, or a women’s soccer program that finally got over the hump, or the #CountryClubSchool dominating golf and tennis each Spring. Or a women’s basketball team that is just the best on and off the floor. These are the stories we love the most, and that won’t change.
Nate and Connor are more than ready to handle this thing, and they will do a fantastic job. Jamie is still around to copy edit and fill gaps and make dumb memes and teach the kids about Chris Iskra. All our other contributors are staying too. I’ll still be in the Slack channel, I’m keeping the podcast, and I reserve the right to post a rant here when I feel it’s necessary.
But no more press boxes, gamers, or breaking news for me. And I couldn’t be more excited.
If I make it sound like this has been all labor and no love, that’s not true either. I’ve been a part of some great moments from the best seats in the joint. I was on the field for the last minutes of the best college football game of the year last Friday. I’ve built relationships with many coaches and staffers that have given me insight most Bulls fans would do anything to have. I’ve met amazing people because of this slice of the interwebz, and the generosity afforded to it by those that really love my alma mater. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
On occasion I’ve been asked for my input on things by USF folks. Sometimes, when I haven’t been asked, I’ve just written about it knowing every word we put on here gets read eventually. Having a voice has been great... but my voice grows more stale each year, and it’s time for some new ones.
Quite frankly, the culture of USF Athletics can make anyone cynical. New staff repeat the same mistakes the old staff made without even realizing it, because they both failed to understand the unique culture of the place. University administration shuts out people with the temerity to point out the obvious negatives, making things far too much of a with-us-or-against-us mentality. And I don’t mean this blog, I’m talking about the people they hire themselves. Media policies seem more suited to 1987 than 2017, but they also bemoan a lack of coverage.
We need administrators that aren’t looking for their next gig as soon as they set foot on campus. We need to hire committed people that understand USF and this city. Who will fundraise and build relationships with wealthy Tampanians. We need leadership that is both liked and respected by those doing the work downstream. We need a president who is willing to commit all necessary resources to football, both monetarily and getting all entities on campus on board. It’s not just showing up to the games or when they make the NCAA Tournament; it’s doing what is necessary to make sure everyone else is too.
It’s not all terrible. There are expectations of performance now that weren’t there before, and mediocrity isn’t accepted as it once was. But there’s a ton that can and should be better.
It is time to let someone else take up that mantle. I'm leaving of my own volition, and because it's the right time. At some point, any kind of leadership runs its course. New voices are needed, and people should be open to realizing that fresh perspectives can be a great thing for any organization. Being weighed down by the fights of the past and burdened by the biases of your personal perspective can make it difficult for anyone to find the best way to meet challenges.
I hope the president of the University of South Florida feels the same way I do about this.
The trend I’ve disliked the most is “fans” not treating the coaches and student-athletes we watch as human beings. We’ve tried to look at things as analytically as we can while doing this, and will continue to do so. That means it is never personal. But it still involves people, and that’s why the hate and the vitriol really bothers me.
People think because it’s sports, they can say or do whatever they want to another person over the Internet. Not true. You can criticize Sterlin Gilbert’s playcalling and not call him an MF’er on Twitter. You can make memes about USF men’s basketball being terrible without telling a player to transfer. 98% of folks understand this. I just hate that our players and coaches have to put up with the 2%.
And with anyone from C.
Here’s what I can’t wait for:
- To sit in the stands and cheer on my team with a beer in my hand. I want to tailgate with friends, travel for road games, and not have to lug a laptop around. I’ve tried to maintain some level of professionalism around USF (except for wearing flip-flops everywhere), but no more. In for shotgunned craft brews next season.
- To not have to cache everything I say. Like how Under Armour is out and Adidas is in next year. I’m like 98+% sure it’s true, but before, I had to be responsible about this. Now I can just say “I’m like really sure, but it’s also not totally done yet.” There, I said it. Hooray!
- I want to have all my conversations with my friends not ever start with “off the record.” I really, really hate that.
But what I’ll miss the most is all of you that have come up and said you love what we do. Those of you that bought me a Jai Alai, or just said “thank you” or “you guys are awesome” at a tailgate or the USF bar crawl or on a flight back from a game. Or even over a poker table or at Gasparilla. It never fails to amaze us that there are so many diehard Bulls out there reading what we write every day.
If you’ve ever dropped us a line, or thrown us a thank you on Twitter, or slid in the DM’s, know that it has all been greatly appreciated, and helped me personally get through the tough times. Even the criticism, but especially the funny. My particularly dark sense of humor at times fit really well with the teams I’ve covered (shoutout Orlando Antigua era!), but some people will never get our jokes, no matter how many “you don’t get the show!” memes of Papi LeBatard we put on Facebook. That’s OK, too. We’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, nor would we want to be.
A special thanks to all the USF media relations folks whose lives I often made miserable. They have a tough job, and I sure as hell didn’t make it easier. The irony of me very much liking all of you personally hasn’t been lost on me. But overwhelmingly you guys have been amazing. #RockThePlanet.
I want to shout all the coaches and staffers, both past and present, that were and remain my friends before they were ever sources. But you know who you are, and I don’t want to get you in trouble. Know that I’m beyond indebted to all of you, and thanks for making this job so much easier.
And a big thanks to Alexandra, who had plenty of dates canceled because of this thing, and didn’t really understand why I did it in the first place. I love... you... SF... I’m sorry, it won’t happen again!
But none of us are still here after almost eight(!) years if you guys aren’t reading it. And to you, I say thank you so much. We built something here, but only because of you guys being a part of it. And the most important thing for me was to make sure it continued after I left.
So keep reading. I’m as excited as you are to see where it goes next.