I’m a University of South Florida graduate, but I can’t get excited about by my alma mater being ranked No. 18 in the nation in the AP poll and No. 16 in the coaches poll.
The high-scoring Bulls have scored at least 30 points in 22 consecutive games — the nation’s longest streak — after a blowout 61-31 win against East Carolina last weekend.
The team can tie Oregon’s record of consecutive games with at least 30 points set by the Ducks during the 2011-12 season. The Bulls are also riding a 10-game winning streak, the second longest in the nation.
Charlie Strong gives the program the name recognition at head coach to attract quality recruits, and the team getting the national TV games that will certainly help the program grow even more in coming years.
Perhaps I’m struggling because I attended USF before the football program was created in 1997.
I was opposed to efforts to create a football program while I was a student there for a variety of reasons.
The university, founded in 1956, is among the youngest in the state. When I attended there nearly three decades ago, the university was still growing and I believed it was a mistake to spend money on a football program when there were so many other things the campus lacked, such as a student library lacking in research materials at the time. Plus, most college football programs don’t make money.
The argument in favor of creating a football program was that it would create more school spirit and generate more alumni donations.
I argued at the time that college graduates don’t donate based on their football team’s won/lost records. Instead, they donate because of lessons learned in the classroom that enable them to be successful in the workplace after graduation.
I wasn’t alone in my opposition. Many others took similar positions that a football program could wait until all the campus facilities were comparable with the more established universities in the state.
The debate ended in 1997 when the first USF football team took the field as a Division 1-AA team, winning its first game 80-3 over Kentucky Wesleyan at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
In 2007, the Bulls were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation in Division 1-A after beating three Top 25 teams. I still didn’t get excited enough to watch a game that year.
I did watch South Florida’s dismantling of Temple two weeks ago. While the 43-7 dismantling of the Owls was impressive, I’m not certain if the Bulls will ever draw the loyal following of the Florida Gators, Miami Hurricanes or Florida State Seminoles. Too many seats in the grandstands were empty for the game against Temple, even though it was nationally televised, making it appear there isn’t much enthusiasm for the team when it plays home games.
Despite my lackluster enthusiasm for the Bulls, I am a passionate college football fan. I enthusiastically root for my favorite college team as a youth, University of Michigan. The University of Georgia has become my adopted team since I move to Southeast Georgia 25 years ago.
There is no question I’d cheer for my two favorite college teams if they played USF.
I’d really be conflicted the the Wolverines and Bulldogs ever faced each other. I’d probably watch the game in the privacy of my home so I could cheer for both teams and would be happy, regardless of the outcome.
I’m not sure how excited I’ll be, but I plan to watch at least one more USF football game this season to see if they can win me over. The fact I’m even thinking about USF football must mean something.
And, perhaps that’s the problem. I may not have enough fandom in my heart to enthusiastically cheer for a third college football team.