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It’s Time For USF Football to Cut Bait With Charlie Strong

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There’s no point waiting to see if things will get better. They won’t.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I was wrong.

It’s time for USF Athletics to part ways with head football coach Charlie Strong. I bought all the way into the culture change that Charlie and others hocked during the off-season. I was the first person to defend Strong at nearly every turn during the preseason. I thought the housecleaning Strong did, as well as the new coaches he brought in, would spark something with this team.

I was wrong.

As recently as last week, I told anyone willing to listen that the game versus South Carolina State was a sign of good things to come. The defense played well, redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud gave the team the spark it needed after a gut punch against Georgia Tech the week prior, and at least for a day, the football team had hope.

I was wrong.

I truly thought getting rid of offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, Gilbert’s best friend Matt Mattox, player-fighter Blue Adams, and Damon Cogdell — who was brought in to secure Miami in recruiting — would cure most, if not all the ills that plagued the program. But those issues have gone much deeper into the roots than I even anticipated. Call it naive, but it really seemed like the program was finally getting turned back around in the right direction for Strong.

I was wrong.

“It comes down to execution,” Strong said after last night’s embarrassing 48-21 loss to SMU at home. “We’ll get it corrected because we’re better than that.”

You were better than that in 2017, when you had the greatest player in program history calling the shots, literally and figuratively.

This is who you are now: A team that cannot compete against even middle of the pack American Athletic Conference opponents. A team that needed a miraculous rally to beat Tulsa last year, and then needed to recover an onside kick versus UConn to seal a win the next week. This is who you are now.

There’s no point in waiting to see if USF loses to UConn this Saturday. The damage has been done. We’ve seen enough. Even if the Bulls beat the Huskies, you’re delaying the inevitable. You’d be 2-3 heading into a home game versus BYU, followed by road games at Navy and ECU before the November gauntlet of Temple, Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF.

This team doesn’t look like one that can rattle off seven straight wins. Especially not when both scholarship quarterbacks are now injured to varying degrees. The Bulls are staring down a very real 2-10 or 3-9 season.

No one in their right mind could look back to the 7-0 start last year and think this team was unbeatable. The weaknesses were there, and they finally got exploited by far superior teams and coaches. In 2019, those weaknesses are still there, and many of them are even worse. It’s time to move on.

USF will have to come up with somewhere between $4.5 - 5.2 million to buy out the rest of Strong’s fully guaranteed contract, thanks to former athletic director Mark Harlan’s secret second contract with Strong through the USF Foundation. (That’s a scandal unto itself, but no one is still here to be held accountable for it.) It’s going to be very painful, but as a wise man in Gainesville once said in a similar situation, “What should be done eventually must be done immediately.”

What’s the difference between pulling the trigger early, or waiting two months when the entire team has checked out, the fan base has deserted you, and you’re competing with the rest of the college football landscape for a new coach?

It’s time to say goodbye to the #BullStrong era at USF. Now.