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'Painting 'em Purple'

From the Booth
Thursday, October 17, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates

Bulls charge to respectability in a hurry


Listen to FROM THE BOOTH with Jeff Charles live on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. on WCZI 98.3 FM, or play the audio archive the next day on Bonesville Internet Radio.





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 football:

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 dream job.

At the press conference when Leavitt's hiring was announced, the question was asked, “Where are you going to live?” His response, “In my office.”

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 Sherman.

  • 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.”

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Dig into Jeff Charles' Bonesville Archives.

02/23/2007 10:24:08 AM

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