You know what’s completely apropos of the South Florida Bulls? I can’t even think of a decent lede to aptly place them in any sort of a failure, lack of success, what the hell’s going on box. With no connection to the Tampa institution, my team selection for Big East fanhood makes as much sense as the production from the football program.
Losers to Rutgers Thursday night 23-13, Skip Holtz’s rag-tag group of Florida athletes allowed head coach Kyle Flood and the Scarlet Knights to move to a surprising record of 3-0. Flood and his assistants spent Friday morning filling out the proper documentation to get the Empire State Building lit up in scarlet a la 2006.
Much further south, the Bulls coaches used late yesterday evening to visit a shaman, a witch doctor, a guy with a shrunken head and Dr. Phil in an effort to end their ESPN late-week hex. With the Rutgers defeat, South Florida is now 0-9 on Thursday night television. As much as they struggle while broadcasted on the World Wide Leader, it’s amazing NBC’s head-in-the-sand executives haven’t snatched them up as must-see-TV.
Seriously though, why isn’t South Florida running roughshod through the Big East? The Bulls joined the conference in 2005, just eight years after the school instituted football as a sport. Jim Leavitt’s tenure led them from infancy to respectability to the doorstep of dominance (a short-lived #2 ranking in 2007). Leavitt was fired for an altercation with a player and interfering in the investigation and the athletic department responded by hiring a rising star in Skip Holtz.
8-5 followed by 5-7 isn’t what Bulls fans had in mind though when Lou’s son arrived from East Carolina. That didn’t stop the administration from extending Holtz’s deal through 2017 this past July and bumping his salary to $2 million annually. He was mentioned at North Carolina and Arkansas as a prospective candidate but little materialized, mirroring what he’s done in Tampa.
Is it a lack of discipline that keeps South Florida shooting themselves in the foot? Does quarterback B.J. Daniels need to graduate and all of a sudden, things change? Is Matt Grothe secretly still attending classes in Tampa like Van Wilder?
I probably picked the wrong time to try castigating the Bulls considering Rutgers’ success against them. The Scarlet Knights have won six of seven in that series and don’t seem to miss Tampa Bay Bucs head coach and Flood’s predecessor Greg Schiano yet.
Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted a revealing stat last night in the aftermath of another loss: Since Skip Holtz took the job, the Bulls are 1-8 at home facing BCS opposition. The lone victory came against Rutgers, of course.
It’s just mind-boggling to casually follow this team and see the signs of a sleeping giant (fertile recruiting base, large enrollment, administration willing to pay for better coaches) that won’t wake up.