The USF Bulls have repeatedly been adding prominent opponents to their out-of-conference schedules over the next few years. Well, on Thursday they did a deal with the most successful and noteworthy college football program of the last decade.
USF announced a three game contract with the Alabama Crimson Tide that will begin with the Bulls hosting Bama in September of 2023:
🚨 SCHEDULE ALERT 🚨
3-game series starts in Tampa in 2023
— USF Football (@USFFootball) May 23, 2019
This continued USF’s philosophy of being willing to take on power 5 opponents, even if it means, giving them a second home game in the three-game deal. The Bulls did this same deal a week ago with the Miami Hurricanes putting them back on their future schedules beginning in 2025 in South Florida.
USF also felt the disadvantage of these advanced schedule deals with “Power 5” programs that have a “war chest of money,” as Texas decided to opt out of the remaining two years of their three-year deal. They will now only play USF in the September of 2020 game in Austin. As part of the buyout of that deal, USF will make $1.9 million to play the one game against the Longhorns.
“We are very excited to open the Alabama series in Tampa in 2023 and to add one of the most successful brands in American sports to a very exciting list of future opponents that will give our student-athletes and coaches a great opportunity to compete against the best programs in the nation,” Kelly said. “We now have 15 games scheduled vs. SEC and ACC opponents in the next 10 years and I think our fans are really excited to see those teams come to Tampa as well as the opportunity to travel and cheer on the Bulls in those destinations. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a USF fan.”
USF will return the games to the Crimson Tide in Septembers of 2024 and 2026.
The Bulls previously played Alabama in Birmingham in 2003 for the only meeting between the two programs in history, and, as the Bulls statement points out: they now have 17 non-conference game scheduled against Power Six” opponents coming in the next decade.
USF will open it’s third season under coach Charlie Strong in prime time on Friday night August 30th ,when they take on the Wisconsin Badgers. They will play at Georgia Tech the following week and host BYU later in October as part of their out-of-conference play this season.
Bulls AD Kelly continues indoor facility pitch
The Bulls are once again making their very understandable pitch for an indoor practice facility. South Florida’s Athletic Director Michael Kelly had a lot to say about the programs dire need to a room full of boosters on Thursday.
No earth-shattering news at luncheon, though Michael Kelly made another vigorous pitch for the @USFFootball Center
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) August 15, 2019
At the inaugural “Bulls Kickoff Luncheon” at the Marriott Water Street in Tampa, he got on the podium to make the football team’s case.
“As you probably read, we had a lot of rain and storms (Wednesday) that inconvenienced the heck out of our guys and all of our staff,”
He added, “It’s one thing when we do it in the summertime and we don’t have class. We can navigate around that, as inconvenient as it is. But when you get to class time, there’s no way. … We’re not missing class.”
“This lightning and rain inconveniences the HECK out of our guys.” #USF VP of Athletics is giving a passionate talking about the ABSOLUTE NEED for the IPF.
— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) August 15, 2019
Located in one of the most rain-prone cities in the country, the weather too often limits the available practice time for USF. And in their quest to compete with the most elite collegiate programs, they’re going to need that valuable time in practice.
“Many of you have heard us preaching this for over a year now,” Kelly said. “We’re gonna keep on preaching it ’til we get it built.”
Back in 2017, USF unveiled its plans for a $40 million, 160,000-square-foot football center. The facility will be added to the Morsani Football Practice Complex and include an 83,000-square-foot indoor practice facility with a 110-yard turf field. The center will also feature a two-level, 80,000-square foot building to house the entire football program’s offices.
"The USF Football Center will be a profound and transformational step forward in providing a world-class student-athlete experience across all of our varsity sports programs." – Mark Harlan
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 9, 2017
So far the Bulls have secured about 20 million dollars of funding towards the project. The university is searching for “private and corporate support,” and has announced that no student fees or tuition will be used to finance the facility.
Kelly’s hopeful of breaking ground as early as next spring.
The much-needed “IPF” could be another selling point to show recruits during their on-campus visits. Florida, FSU, Miami and UCF all have indoor practice facilities.
In fact, when former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was campaigning to Seminole Boosters to fund Florida State’s IPF, his main sell was that in modern day college football, he couldn’t guarantee that FSU would win a national championship with an IPF, but he could certainly guarantee they wouldn’t win one without it. The facility was completed in early 2013… the same season FSU won the national championship.
For USF, it will also allow other sports programs, such as the baseball, and soccer teams, to train during unfavorable weather conditions. Players will also have a team auditorium with tiered seating where they can review plays from previous games and scout upcoming opponents.
Kelly told reporters after the luncheon that it was a great opportunity to talk to a larger group of supporters, 500 in total (including Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor), who might not have known the severity of the issue.
“I know our die-hard fans are intimately aware of it, but this was an expanded group. When you have a lot of people that invite seven, eight, nine, 10 people that are guests at a table to kind of hear the vision of USF football and to hear what we have in store for the future…it’s a great opportunity for us.”
With the momentum USF has going into the next couple of seasons, this addition would certainly allow them to capitalize on it.
USF QB Blake Barnett excited for new offensive scheme
After ending last season with an injury, second year USF QB Blake Barnett has some unfinished business to take care of this upcoming season, and he’s going to use his new offense to do it.
At the “American Kickoff” luncheon on Tuesday, Barnett was asked by Tampa Bay Times USF Beat writer Joey Knight, about his thoughts on the Bull’s offensive scheme under the new offensive coordinator, Kerwin Bell. He had a lot of positive things to say.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) July 16, 2019
Barnett emphasized that it was really important that this offense allows him to spread the ball around. He added:
“The offense itself is very diverse. We can run a single play out of six, seven formations, put motions involved…put different personnel and switch it in. There’s really endless opportunities and options… so it’s going to do a really good jobs of not only showing our strengths, but exposing our opponents weaknesses.”
This season is a critical one for the Bulls, and especially for head coach, Charlie Strong. Replacing former OC Sterlin Gilbert with Bell could be the move that will make his third year leading the program a more successful one.
While Strong has had a bad history with hiring OCs, Bell has proven much more promising than the less than elite hires of his past. He is a name older football fans in the state of Florida remember well — and fondly — due to his years as the Florida Gators’ star quarterback. Had Florida not been hit with NCAA and SEC penalties due to various violations under Charley Pell (whose tenure preceded Bell’s playing career) and then Galen Hall, Bell might have led Florida onto the field in one or more Sugar Bowls He was robbed of that opportunity, but the quality of his performances spoke for itself.
Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. He is 53 years old and a true survivor in the football industry. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade — not bad for a seventh-round pick at No. 180 in 1988.
Bell and Barnett give Strong and the rest of the USF roster a reason to be hopeful that this will be the bounce-back season in Tampa.