Let us stipulate the obvious.
USF Athletics has mismanaged money you have given to it previously. They have failed as fiscal stewards repeatedly, and spent lavishly in places they shouldn’t instead of investing where they should. If you’ve been a USF fan for a decade or so, how many different ticket sales people and development officers have you met? The answer is likely too many.
Let us not forget that we certainly didn’t fail to take care of those that failed you, and even did things like having an athletic director match all the bonuses of his head coaches... and him also be the guy to set those bonuses. Or that investing in development officers and fundraising talent instead of billboards was probably a smarter way to build a base of revenue.
We concede it was a horrible way to manage the investment you (and by plurality, the student body via their tuition fee) made in the Bulls. There have been some successes, but they haven’t outweighed the failures. And seeing that the heretofore unsuccessful football coach is getting quite a paycheck sure as hell doesn’t help the motivations to give either.
But... quo vadis. Where are you going?
Because this program isn’t going anywhere without new money.
USF has underinvested in the history of the program. It would make sense that the Bulls are behind UConn with their history and tradition in terms of athletics budget. But being more than $10 million behind Temple in operating income is inexcusable (they’re north of $60 million, we’re around $50 million). Cinci and SMU are in the pricier neighborhood too, and their facilities are all in better shape than ours and they all have indoor practice facilities already. And though we didn’t mortgage dorm contracts and misappropriate money like the team up the street, that doesn’t mean we gave the support this program needed philanthropically either.
We are located in the lightning capital of the world, which means sunshine and palm trees and too many missed practices. As our friends at PAPN have repeatedly pointed out on a national broadcast, we’ve got a football team splitting a weight room with a volleyball team and a soccer team, and that just isn’t done in 2019 at any schools at our level.
There are many reasons we’re this financially behind the 8-ball, with most of the documented in these pages for the last 10 years. Our alumni base is just too young to do the kind of philanthropy needed to sustain a top-flight program. The mission of the institution has always skewed towards research, which is how you end up Top 10 in patents every year this decade and in the highest tiers of research amongst public institutions in America. It’s also how you don’t have a conference championship in football, men’s or women’s basketball, or baseball in 24 years. In Florida.
Because USF Athletics always just did more with less, it was assumed that Athletics would be self-sustaining and didn’t really need the financial input. We were the Little Engine That Could, and we had people like Paul Griffin and Lee Roy Selmon that could make wine out of water. And once the facilities were upgraded for the Big East, everyone thought the Southeast quadrant of campus could figure out the rest on their own.
Everyone thought wrong.
USF didn’t raise enough money in the Big East, survived on exit fees of the future AAC to get through the last few years, and never invested in development the way they should. Too many donors that could have helped were asked to spend for other departments. Improving a top-flight medical school or a College of Business are, ya know, why universities should and do exist. So I don’t begrudge the priorities. But the Bulls are just far too behind to be sustainably competitive. And some horrible contracts haven’t helped either.
But there’s no escape hatch besides cold, hard, cash on hand.
The last part of this I can’t justify in any other fashion other than my personal experience. I started traveling to road games as a USF student in 2000. I was hired by the department in 2002. I wrote this blog for eight years, and still do a podcast and break down football game film. I plan my life around road games, and my friends and social circle are inexorably tied to the Bulls. USF Athletics has been far, far too much a part of my life socially and professionally as an adult. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen basically everything we’ve done this century from a front row seat.
I cannot speak for the new university president. I briefly met his wife but not him, and he hasn’t been here long enough for me to know what he’s doing in terms of development.
But I’ve known Michael Kelly since we briefly worked for the department together 17 years ago. He is smart, talented, and he loves this city and this campus. He’s invested in this program and this community. When you’ve been John Swofford’s right-hand at the ACC, ran a couple Super Bowls, and handled operations for the College Football Playoff, you can somewhat pick your job.
He chose USF because he believed in the potential of the Bulls. He’s not offering his resume all over the NCAA unlike his predecessors. And he inherited an absolute mess from people that didn’t care enough or basically abdicated the best interests of the program, and has chosen to put his head down and start digging. And if you follow him on social media, you’ll see the level of interaction has never been higher. The people he’s hired are smarter, sharper, and they’ve got a plan to get this fixed.
Not with Band-Aids to make a CV line look better to their next employer, but to actually do the hard work and repair the damage that’s been done.
No one has documented the failures of USF as much as we have. But as a fan base we can bitch about it, or we can help fix it in whatever fractional manner we can. That doesn’t mean when obvious failures happen they shouldn’t be pointed out and discussed, but they can also be accepted with the realization that the only way out is actual dollars.
I haven’t always trusted USF Athletics to do the right thing, but with the people they have right now I do. That’s all I can tell you. If you don’t, you absolutely have every right to that opinion. Because those previously charged have burned your goodwill before.
But... quo vadis. I choose to believe and go forward. Click here to give if you can help too. Because we all we got, and hopefully, we all we need.
I know not everyone that reads here can do this, and if you can’t that doesn’t make you a bad fan or alumni or any less of a Bulls supporter. But if you can, I ask you to join me. It’s not a solution, but it’s a start. Mine isn’t much, but I made it unrestricted, which you can do too via Fund 50020: because we need cash on hand more than anything.
There’s two ways to dig: to make the hole bigger, or to fill a hole that’s already there. This is to help the latter.
Because we’re not going anywhere without it.