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We Need To Talk About USF, Part 3 (Actually, No We Don’t)

Jamie is mad as hell, and doesn’t want to take it anymore.

South Florida v Houston Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

[This is the third and final part of today’s series. Here’s Part 1 by Dr. Karla Mastracchio and Part 2 by Dr. Matthew Morrison.]

This week I’m taking my first vacation time in 18 months. I was supposed to leave for Tampa tonight so I could finally see my parents and go watch the USF-Florida game. I moved the trip to October to watch the Lightning instead.

I was supposed to cover the SMU game in Dallas in a few weeks. I told Nate to cancel my credential.

I was upset that I couldn’t join most of the blog in New Orleans for the Tulane game. Now I’m not bothered at all.

While the esteemed Drs. Mastracchio and Morrison were patiently explaining all the things that the next president has to set right, I was looking on Google Maps for a Salvation Army box near campus where I could ditch all my gear.

I wrote the first post on this site 11 1/2 years ago. I’ve spent my own time and money to watch the Bulls play games in glamorous places like Waco and Birmingham and Stillwater and Lubbock and Gainesville and El Paso and Lawrence and Tulsa (three times!). That pile of gear I made in my closet? It’s enormous. I’m exactly the kind of diehard supporter there aren’t nearly enough of.

It’s even more than sports. Anyone who’s met me in person knows I really struggle to connect with other people. USF is the only place I’ve been in my entire life where I have managed to fit in and make friends. This decision is leaving a giant void that I’m not sure I will be able to fill. It pains me to have to do it.

But I’ve had enough. I’m giving up for my own sanity. And if there are other people out there like me that feel the same way, USF is in even more trouble than they know.

The first time this realignment business happened, it was kind of harsh. They didn’t fight for themselves at all, but still, the schools that did get picked felt arbitrary, almost random. It hurt for awhile… then we all forgave and got over it and regrouped.

This time, I can’t forgive, and I don’t even feel bad for them. Getting left behind is 100% deserved. The so-called leadership at USF has utterly failed everyone.

Did you notice that no one there has said anything on the record about what’s happening? That’s for one of two reasons. Either because Brian Siegrist can’t decide which emojis to use in the statement, or because deep down, they know they’ve absolutely fucked it and there are zero excuses.

This is a system-wide failure. It started with Judy Genshaft running the place like an empress for 20 years, putting her thumb on every scale she could find, making enemies in very high places, and driving good people away in droves. Then you have other people who aren’t there anymore, like Doug Woolard, who was given an absolute gift by Lee Roy Selmon and Jim Leavitt and squandered the whole thing.

Then it’s all the people who are still there. It’s the marketing and communications office that can’t figure out how to promote the school, engage the community, or get the pulse of anyone on campus. The logo change was the most spectacular failure, just edging out the College of Education debacle… but it’s the little things, too. Have you ever seen that USF points of pride story on Instagram? (You must have — they post it like once a week.) The one with six points on it, but after five points they ran out of ideas and decided that having a Publix on campus made the cut? Yeah, exactly.

It’s the USF Foundation that flails around aimlessly for money and celebrates posthumous gifts from people who are still very much alive. And hoo boy, is it the USF Alumni Association, the only organization I’ve ever seen that tries like hell not to have any members. Even if they weren’t being deprived of resources by the Foundation, I’m positive that Bill McCausland would still make a huge mess of everything, and they would still irritate anyone who is dedicated enough to try and help them.

It’s so many other departments on campus, too. Like Housing and Greek Life, to name just a couple, that care more about protecting their turf than working together for the common good. It’s people like Ralph Wilcox, who would rather suck up to the boss and keep getting paychecks than take ownership and try to make things better. It’s an entire culture that lets incompetent people (especially incompetent leaders) stay as long as they want, while all the smart people get tired of it and leave. It’s the Board of Trustees that failed to diagnose all these problems, and then made them worse by hiring a feckless empty suit to replace Judy. It’s a whole bunch of people who kept talking how bright the future was and never understood that a bright future doesn’t just happen to you — it’s something you have to work to create.

And yes, it’s also you, Michael Kelly. I don’t want to be too hard on you, because I know you understand and you are trying your hardest to push back. Still, you’ve been there for three years now, with a title no other head of athletics has ever been given. You’re getting paid a whole lot of money. You arrived with all these connections and all this know-how. You are there specifically so that this would not happen again, and it did.

I know that Karla and Matthew are upset about many of the same things as I am. The difference is that their patience may merely be thin, but mine is gone. After nearly 24 years of watching USF operate as a student and an alum, I do not believe they are capable of solving their problems. I don’t think there will be a redemption arc.

If USF was your wife or your husband, and you came to realize they were a constant screwup that gave you almost nothing positive in return, you would absolutely divorce them. You would be mad at yourself for staying as long as you did. That’s where I am.

So go have a groundbreaking for that gigantic new money pit tomorrow. A project that is 10 years too late, and one that I’m sure will be fraught with the usual glaring errors of omission, delays, cost overruns, and God knows what else. Have another miserable football season, quite possibly followed by another miserable men’s basketball season and a coaching change. Get dropped into obscurity with schools you should never, ever be in the same conference with, except for your own dysfunction and neglect. Limp along as a university and never come close to reaching your potential.

Do whatever you think you need to do. Just don’t ask me to be a part of it anymore.