Look, I know it’s tough out there being a small program in college football nowadays. The sport has perhaps never been so starkly divided between the haves and have-nots, and so it’s more important than ever for smaller schools to do anything they can to build tradition and camaraderie amongst their fanbase. I respect that, and that’s why I’ve held off saying anything for all these years.
But with USF set to pay a rare visit to one of these smaller programs, I can be silent no longer: the University of Texas at Austin (commonly referred to as “Texas”), USF’s opponent to open the 2020 season, stole USF’s fabled hand sign.
I know this may come as a shock to the college football world. Some may even deny the possibility that a school would do something so unsporting and brazen as stealing another’s trademark hand sign. But unfortunately, it’s true, and I have the photographic evidence to prove it.
Exhibit #1: Former USF head coach Willie Taggart doing the Bulls’ famed “Horns Up” hand sign after a game against Cincinnati in 2016.
Exhibit #2: Texas head coach Tom Herman co-opting the “Horns Up” sign for his own program’s use before a game against West Virginia in 2019.
It’s understandable that Texas would want to mirror the traditions of a more successful program. The Longhorns (a regional variation on USF’s “bull”) have only finished in the Top 20 once in the past seven years, compared to twice for USF. They haven’t managed to win ten games in the regular season since 2009, whereas USF has done it twice in the past four years. To add insult to injury, former Texas head coach Charlie Strong even went to coach at USF immediately after he left Texas!
Life is hard out there for fledgling football programs, so I think I speak on behalf of the USF football fanbase when I say we don’t take it personally. Stealing a larger school’s traditions is no way to start building your own, though. There are plenty of hand signs to go around, and I’m confident that Texas can find one that suits them - they may be surprised to find their fans prefer a sign that’s unique!