Woohoo! ON TIME THIS WEEK! Also I need something to cheer me up; writing this should do it.
Syracuse opens up Big East Conference play at noon on Saturday (what else is new?) against South Florida. But how much do you know about one of the Big East's-and D1's-newest schools?
History: As you can see by the logo, this school is kinda young for a major college; most of the schools we play were established before World War II. The school was approved by Florida House Bill 1007, and the school was not named until 1957. They had fun trying to find out what name to pick, and there were suggestions such as "University of the Sunshine State" or "Citrus State University" (they shoulda picked that; that way they could've made fun of the teams they beat by them losing to a school with a funny name). But they eventually settled on South Florida because it was the southernmost public university in the state at the time of its founding. Sam Gibbons, a congressman from Tampa, worked hard to get the school made. They decided to build the school at the site of a former WWII airstrip. The school's first president, John Allen, made great strides in expanding the school during his tenure in the 60s. In the 80s it became a major research university, and offered the only degree in applied anthropology in the entire world. During this time, they built two university hospitals.
Location: Not South Florida, Florida. Actually it's in Tampa. Tampa means "Sticks of Fire" in the Calusa language (a language once spoken by the true heirs to Tampa), but little is known about the natives in the area. Spanish explorers came in 1520, and left behind diseases that killed the natives. Cuban immigrants and other natives lived in the area for a long time, and eventually escaped slaves moved in. When the US bought Florida from Spain in 1821, they sent an army to destroy the towns the African Americans built and killed them. Tampa was first incorporated in 1845 as a village, and became a town in 1855.
During the civil war, the Confederate army occupied and controlled the city. In the 1880s, phosphate was discovered nearby and soon became the local cash crop, and unlike in most towns, still is. A rail line was built to Tampa and the city soon became a port town. There aren't that many companies I'm familiar with that operate out of Tampa. Of note, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa was born in the city, as were the Hogans.
Academics: The school's actually pretty big, with over 36,000 undergrads and just under 10k grads. In the US News list of National Universities, South Florida is pretty low, at 183. They have a well respected music school, and, for people like me, a center for urban transportation study, though I doubt I would ever be attending one of our rival schools. The CUTR also hosts the National Center for Transit Research in coordination with Cal.
Notable Alumni: Famous Wrestler Hulk Hogan is not only from Tampa, but went to USF. So did Tony LaRussa. In sports, current Dallas Cowboys corner Mike Jenkins went to USF, and the first Panamanian to play in the NFL went there as well. In music, Lobo was a student there, and in TV, Mark Consuelos of All My Children fame is an alum. Unfortunately, we don't have any big name busom babes this week, so we'll have to go with 1999 Miss America Nicole Johnson.
Mascot, logos, helmets, and fight song: You know how the NCAA gets in a tizzy about Indian (Native American) mascots? Well, South Florida actually at one point had a real Indian mascot. They were always called the Bulls, but their original name was the Brahman Bulls, which kinda represents the Indian Sacred Cows I guess. In fact, their fight song still references this (see below). The name was chosen to honor Florida's cattle production. In the 80s, the Brahman Bulls was changed to the Bulls because the local newspapers didn't want to write the whole name out (not because of sensitivity to Indians). As for how many schools use this nickname? Five total. USF is one, and three of the other four are USF's affiliate schools nearby (St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Lakeland to be exact). The fifth school? SUNY Buffalo!
The current logo was adopted in 2003 and is called "The Iconic Bull." I think the old bull was more iconic, to be honest.
USF's colors are green and gold, and their gold looks pretty golden to me (any school that uses "gold" has to get their "gold" color analyzed by me, as you already know). Four schools have this color combination officially, including USF. The others are Baylor, Cal Poly, and Colorado State. UAB wears gold sometimes but gold isn't one of their colors (just like we wear blue sometimes but blue is hardly a Syracuse color....)
USF's mascot is Rocky the Bull. Rocky was one of several mascots originally proposed, such as the Chickens, Roosters, Desert Rats, etc. Eventually the settled on the Goldan Brahmans, and soon the name was scrapped as mentioned above, and Rocky came about in 2004. A part of me wonders if Rocky was named after Rocky the Flying Squirrel, because of his partner, BULL-Winkle.
USF's helmets have shown the timeline of their logo. The first helmet was in use from 1997 to 2003, and then they changed the the "Iconic Bull" design. The second helmet was used in 2003 and 2004. The third helmet was used between 2005 and 2009, and the fourth helmet is the current design. They used this in their bowl games last season.
USF has a surprising marching band tradition for its age (which is 11 this year), known as the Herd of Thunder (240 members). Their trumpet section, affectionately known as the "Scream Team," sounds the "Call of the Bulls" to begin the on-field festivities. The band then "stampedes" onto the field with the cheerleaders and Rocky.
The school's fight song is known as "The Goldan Brahman March" and it goes like this:
U-S-F Bulls are we,We hold our standard upright and free.For Green and Gold we stand united.Our beacon lighted and noble to see.U-S-F Bulls are we,For USF will always be.With all our might we fight the battlehere and now, and we will win the victory!(shout!) S-O-U-T-H F-L-O-R-I-D-ASouth Florida, South FloridaGo Bulls!!!
Other songs popular with the band are "El Toro Caliente" (pregame), the "March Victorious Fanfare" (used when USF gets a first down), and when opponents are forced to punt, they play Rage Against the Machine's The Bull. Wooly Bully is also a popular selection.
Athletics: USF began NCAA Division I play in 1971, although they didn't play football until 1997. They were charter members of the Sun Belt in 1976, and played until the 1991 Sun Belt split there, when they joined the Metro Conference. In 1995, the Metro Conference was merged into Conference USA, so USF was put there. Meanwhile, their football program began as a I-AA independent in 1997, then became a I-A independent in 2001, and joined Conference USA in 2003. Because of the flight of Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech from the Big East, they enticed USF to join the Big East in 2005, and they're now a full time member in all sports.
USF's football program is the very definition of "get rich quick." They're in their Bar Mitzvah year, and already they're impacting even some of the most storied football schools. Longtime coach Jim Leavitt (USF's first coach of two) actively recruited with the Trekism "Where no man has gone before" and wanted USF to quickly rise to the point where they could challenge Florida's establishment: Florida, Florida State, and Miami, for recruits and wins (and they beat FSU last year, so they're getting to that point). Their major breakout year was 2002, their last as an independent, when they went 9-2 and still didn't qualify for a bowl game (their two losses were to Arkansas and Oklahoma). They were ranked 18th by the New York Times rankings that year (which mattered at the time because this poll helped determine BCS standings). Still, they haven't reached a Bowl Game until they joined the Big East, and have been to a bowl every year since. They've been to the Meinike Car Care Bowl, Papajohn's.com Bowl, Sun Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, and International Bowl. The teams they beat in bowls were ECU, Memphis, and Northern Illinois, and the teams they lost to were NC State and Oregon. The team plays at the Bucs' Raymond James Stadium and is 95-57 all time. At the end of last year, longtime coach and legend Jim Leavitt punched a player in the face and was fired; now USF hired Skip Holtz from ECU.
The basketball team hasn't been this successful, although during the 80s they were competative. Charlie Bradley led the team from 1981-85 to a pair of NIT berths, and in 1983 came one win away from qualifying for the NCAAs. Overall, the team has been to 8 NITs. That's not to say they never danced, though. Under coach Bobby Paschal, they finally got over that hump in 1990 when they beat Charlotte. They went back to the NCAAs in 1992. They never won a game in either of their appearances. The team plays in the Sun Dome, and is coached by Stan Heath. Most recently, Dominique Jones gave USF some swagger.
In other sports, USF's sailing team is ranked in the top 10 in the nation consistently.
South Florida does not have a lacrosse team, sadly.
Rival: South Florida doesn't really have an established rival. In football, they're looking to establish rivalries with the Florida establishment, and that has been working, slowly. In basketball, most of their memorable games came against teams from Conference USA that they no longer play on a regular basis. One could make arguments that Central Florida, Southern Miss, Charlotte, and UAB could be rivals, but what they really want is to be hated by Florida, FSU, and Miami.
Outlook: Coming off a bye week, Syracuse needs to make a statement, especially if they want to go bowling. This is the first game of four in a "Gauntlet." And I've said time and time again that USF is very beatable; their lines are just as questionable as ours, so Ryan Nassib should have a decent day. Overall, I say Syracuse 24 USF 20. GO ORANGE!