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Jeff Scott’s First Week At USF: To Croot Or Not To Croot?

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Right now the new USF football coach has more pressing needs than trying to keep a few recruits on board until February.

Anthony Vito / The Daily Stampede

I have to say I’m not really understanding why people are worried about new USF football coach Jeff Scott spending the few days he has in Tampa before the early signing day talking to donors and meeting with the local business community. People are freaking that he’s chosen to do that instead of tying down every recruit he can find before he goes back to Clemson to get ready for the College Football Playoff.

There are a lot of reasons this plan makes more sense than going on a recruiting binge:

Charlie Strong didn’t like this part of the job

Charlie Strong is a football coach. He would love nothing more than to be left alone to coach his players and recruit. Talking to donors, schmoozing, and hitting the reception and banquet circuit are not his favorite things to do... and they never have been, all the way back to when he was at Louisville. We can’t say that he wasn’t good at chatting up boosters and big donors, because we don’t run in any of those circles. What we can say, backed up by similar stories from Louisville and Texas, is that the whole PR thing is uncomfortable for him, and his approach left some donors cold.

Big-time boosters need big-time attention

A high-dollar booster is like an expensive house plant. It needs constant care, feeding, and attention, or it will wither away. If you’re giving five, six, even seven-digit donations to a football program, you’ve earned the right to be heard by the people who are getting your money. Your opinions deserve serious consideration. A new coach gives the program a chance to start fresh, mend fences, build new relationships, rebuild trust. There has been some real neglect in this area over the years, and Tampa is already a very tricky place to try and win the business community’s support. That’s part of the reason why it has been so difficult to come up with the money for the new football facility. It’s hard to ask someone for a big check when they don’t feel like they’re a valuable part of the team.

USF athletics needs to start thinking long term

What is the culture of USF football? Or athletics as a whole? Is there one? I’m not sure there is. It feels like the department has been stuck in a loop of short-term thinking for years and years. Basically ever since 2007, when the spotlight suddenly hit and the department was overwhelmed and all they could do was solve problem after problem on the fly. Even before that, the novelty of having football at USF and moving up through the levels was the vision. The groundwork needed to convince the community to support a mature program was never laid, and the infrastructure to make sure they were ready for next time was never built.

Clemson has one of, if not the best football program culture in all of FBS. Jeff Scott was a big part of translating Dabo Swinney’s vision into something that everyone could understand and rally behind. That is going to be a crucial skill at USF, where no one can articulate their vision for the football team other than “please God just win a title someday.”

Now, Scott may only be in Tampa for a few years if he succeeds. Players run out of eligibility eventually. And someday Michael Kelly might be gone too (a thought that makes us cry ourselves to sleep at night). The only people you know are going to be around for the long, long haul are the boosters and the fans. It makes sense that they’re the first group that you need to get on board with your vision of the program.

Why be in such a hurry to save this class?

I hate to break this to you all, but USF is not winning this league next year. If you ask me, just getting to a bowl game in 2020 will be an accomplishment. What difference does it make if they end up with the 6th best recruiting class in the conference, like they have now, or the 4th best? Or the 8th best? That’s another example of short-term thinking. I’m not saying punt the class completely, because there are still some good players in here, and their low rank is partly due to how few commits they have. It’s not an earth-shattering class, though. I think you’re better off getting what you can, trying your luck in the transfer portal this year, and making a big recruiting push for 2021.

Two other points about this class:

  • Only one or two of the Bulls’ commits were planning to sign early anyway. Scott still has at least a month after the CFP to work on the other verbal commits before National Signing Day.
  • Tate Rodemaker was leaving no matter who the coach was. It was great that USF had their foot in the door early, but he kept playing really well and a number of bigger, better offers came in. Besides FSU, Utah and Baylor both wanted him, and they each almost made the Playoff. There may still be more big offers to come, too. We all know it’s not over in recruiting until the fat lady signs, er, sings.

People need to get off social media

Following news all the time on Twitter, no matter what kind of news it is, makes you angry, anxious, and exhausted. It shows in our mentions and our comments. People are upset and making accusations about a coach that has been on the job for six (6) days. Just stop. Calm down and log off. (I have #OfflineLyfe brochures if anyone is interested.) Go spend time with real people. Enjoy the holidays.

You don’t know what other work Jeff Scott has done over the last week. You don’t know will happen between now and September 5 with recruits, transfers, new assistants, or any of that. And odds are, none of it is going to make a huge difference in USF’s record next year. I’m still going to Austin, and so will many of you.

This program needs a strategy and a vision a lot more than they need a few commits right now. Let Jeff Scott and Michael Kelly do this right for a change.