From the Booth
Thursday, October 17, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates
Bulls charge to respectability
in a hurry
Who are these guys? Isn’t it amazing what one win will do?
If South Florida loses to Southern Miss rather than beating
them 16-13 last Saturday in Tampa, I doubt they would have the kind of
attention we’ve seen this week. A win over USM puts a big stamp of
legitimacy on the Bulls program.
After all, no one knows better than Pirate fans how good
Southern Miss is year in and year out. The Pirates are 7-20 against The
Golden Eagles and have lost five of the last six games to USM, fourteen of
the last eighteen.
Here’s a little history capsule, albeit a short one, on USF
A meeting was held in October of 1991 (the year of the Peach
Bowl, of course) to discuss the feasibility of football at USF. A
recommendation was made in March of 1992 to start a football program.
Pro football Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon was hired as
Associate Athletic Director in 1993. A campaign headed up by Selmon to raise
ten million dollars to start the program is successful, which results in the
Florida Board of Regents approving football in September of 1995.
Jim Leavitt is hired as head coach in December of 1995.
Intra-squad scrimmages start in September of 1996.
The first season starts in 1997 with an opening 80-3 win
over Kentucky Wesleyan before a crowd of 49,212. USF finishes 5-6 and
averages 33,039 for seven home games.
It’s been nothing but winning seasons since… 8-3 in ’98, 7-4
in ’99, 7-4 in 2000, 8-3 in 2001. In the initial years, those wins came
primarily at the expense of Division II and I-AA competition, but last
year’s 8-3 record was compiled against eight Division I-A schools and just
three I-AA teams as the schedule continues to be upgraded.
USF at home is 32-5 since the inception of the program and
has won 16 home games in a row.
The Bulls started play at Tampa Stadium and now play in Raymond James
Stadium, a facility they share with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
USF has had 12 players sign NFL contracts — the best known
is Bill Gramatica, the Arizona Cardinals kicker. His little brother
Santiago, will kick against the Pirates Saturday.
The architect of this success story is the 45-year-old
Leavitt, a disciple of Bill Snider at Kansas State.
Leavitt is a hometown boy from St. Petersburg who says the USF job is his
At the press conference when Leavitt's hiring was announced,
the question was asked, “Where are you going to live?” His response, “In my
He has brought a real passion to the job. Gene McArtor, an
athletic administrator at Missouri where Leavitt graduated says, “Nobody,
but nobody is going to match his work ethic and his energy.”
Former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry says, “He is a tireless
worker... an around the clock guy.”
Because of his Florida upbringing, his ties to the state
reach far and wide and right at 90% of the players you’ll see on Saturday
are from the Sunshine State.
The ringleader is quarterback Marquel Blackwell, a 6’1”
205-pounder with impressive numbers — 57% through the air, six touchdowns
and three interceptions with 200 yards rushing. Pirate Coach Steve Logan
says he’s Marc Crandell all over again.
Keep your eye on two guys on defense. Number 41 Shurron
Pierson is a 6’3” 250 pound defensive end who has incredible athleticism —
he runs a 4.4 40, bench presses 480 pounds and has a forty-two-inch
vertical. Middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell is a 6’2” 255-pound bruiser who
leads USF in tackles with 67 and has 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage
in just six games.
USF comes in at 4-2 with wins over I-AA Florida Atlantic and
Howard Schnellenberger, a 37-6 pasting of a good Northern Illinois team that
beat Wake Forest, a win at North Texas, and a “w” last week against USM. The
losses have come to Arkansas and Oklahoma.
News ‘n Notes from Pirate Land...
It’s homecoming Saturday for the 2:00 p.m. kickoff and
it’s also the thirtieth anniversary of the 1972 team. It’s Letterwinners
Weekend and Hall of Fame Weekend with six new inductees. They are former
baseball coach Keith LeClair, basketball’s Blue Edwards, football’s George
Koonce, swimmer Jim Meads, swimming coach Ray Scharf and wrestler Milt
The Pirate basketball scrimmage will start at 11:30 a.m.
Saturday and you’re invited to Williams Arena Minges Coliseum. The guys
look good in early workouts.
Join us at 9:00 a.m. from UBE in uptown Greenville
Saturday morning for Pirate Preview on WCZI 98.3 FM and WGPM 94.3 FM… The
network hits the air at 1:10 p.m., Logan’s television show airs at 11:30
a.m. this Sunday on WITN Channel Seven and at 1:00 p.m. on WRPX PAX 47 in
Raleigh... Coach Logan's call in radio show is Sunday night at 7:00 p.m.
Till next time, “Keep painting’em purple.”
Send an e-mail message to
Dig into Jeff Charles' Bonesville Archives.
02/23/2007 10:24:08 AM