Analysis: USF athletics mired in mediocrity - FOX 13 News

Analysis: USF athletics mired in mediocrity

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

USF has fired Stan Heath, and I hope the Bulls get a good coach out of it because to me, the move seems very short-sighted.

Heath had four more years left on his contract, so USF will swallow that $1.5 million Heath will get.

Heath gave the program time and commitment. His replacement (if he can come in and win) may be out and gone in two years, using the school as a stepping stone.

I get it: Heath was 3 and 15 in the conference. But he didn't have a point guard -- Anthony Collins was hurt all season. He played without a big man and he played freshman -- which is ironic.

Stan Heath got his best recruiting class going into the season and he won't be around to see it pay off.

When USF hired the new athletic director, Mark Harlan, school President Judy Genshaft was quoted in papers as saying she would "not tolerate mediocrity."

My question is, what suddenly kicked that in? Because since I've been in Tampa, USF basketball has been mediocre. I'm going all the way back to Bobby Paschal and a program that was mired in mediocrity.

When Paschal came to USF, he had to change the culture and improve the program, and he did. In his 10-year stretch, Paschal had three winning conference records, and made the NCAA twice and the NIT twice.

But also in that 10 year stretch, there were seven years when USF won only five or fewer conference games.

Seth Greenberg, great guy, losing coach, 7 years at USF, two NIT appearances and only one winning conference record in those 7 years.

Stan Heath, another 7 year coach with one NIT and one NCAA appearance....and somewhere in between Seth Greenberg and Stan Heath there was Robert McCullum -- I didn't even remember McCullum, that's how dynamic his four year run was.

In football, the same story: Jim Leavitt had to grow a program and he did that effectively. Leavitt put the Bulls on the proverbial map with national rankings and signature wins. But his teams couldn't finish what he started, and his last seven years working the USF sidelines, his conference record is the definition of mediocre.

Skip Holtz was done after just three years and a grand total of five conference wins, so that's why I question an administrative leader who is quoted as saying, "mediocrity will not be tolerated." Under her direction, mediocrity has been the athletic program's history. Even on campus, there seems to be athletic apathy -- basketball games don't really draw, football games don't sell out.

I think there have been flashes of promise, glimpses of potential, parts of a season that tease and make you think a team, a program, has turned the corner.

The Tampa Bay Times Gary Shelton, I think summed up USF Athletics perfectly, when he writes "Somewhere along the way, the Bulls have become an afterthought of a program. On the national landscape, they have become the ‘invisi-Bulls.' "

So is it the coaches, the program, the conferences they play in? What has been the Bulls problem? I think part of the problem is this: The Bulls lost the game of conference musical chairs. When Doug Woolard was running the athletic program, the Bulls essentially ended up without a seat.

Here's the deal. USF has the facilities, the fundraising, and the financial support to create what I think should be one of the best programs in the country. Their facilities are first class, some of the best in the country. There really is no reason why USF -- locked in a state full of talented athletes -- can't be more relevant, and shouldn't get more national respect.

It's something I am pulling for, it's what I want to see. I want to see football fever building up for a Saturday kick off in Raymond James. I want to see USF hoop fans flood the Sundome, crank up the volume and create a real home-court advantage in that beautiful new arena.

USF has a strong national academic reputation; now it needs an athletic one. There is a lot of pride and passion that I think is untapped on this campus -- it's time for the new athletic director raise the profile of this program.

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