There continues to be mostly good news on the athletics front at USF, including a football team that has become nationally relevant over the last couple of seasons. And as a byproduct, the man in charge of the department, Mark Harlan, has agreed to a contract extension to keep him with the Bulls program for the at least the next four years.
That’s the hope.
The reality is: as long as USF languishes, under-funded and without the American Athletic Conference able to garner significant revenue for it’s members, then the very real possibility of losing Harlan to a bigger conference school looms.
No different than numerous football coaches in the AAC who have bolted for “Power Five” jobs, like Willie Taggart, Scott Frost, Tom Herman, and Justin Fuente, AD’s are also in play for the same “promotion” to schools that have tens of millions of television and donation dollars flowing like a river into their budgets.
First here’s the official word from USF on Harlan’s new deal:
— USF Athletics (@USFAthletics) April 24, 2018
The extension comes as Harlan was about to enter the final year of his original contract from his March 2014 hire from Assistant AD at UCLA. In his four years, the Bulls football program has become a top 25 entity, again and that included Harlan being able to land Charlie Strong in December of 2016 to replace Taggart, when he left for Oregon.
The women’s basketball program continues to flourish and the baseball program is a Top 25 one, again, for the first time since the 1990s.
Those are all compelling things, but financial realities are financial realities. And USF, has a lower ceiling right, now without much near term hope of it changing.
And that translates into compensation remaining “on the outside looking in” from the bigger conferences.
For example, as this August of 2017 online compilation shows, most of the “Power Five” ADs make well over $700,000 a year and the top 15 of this list average over $1 million per year.
So, even with the Harlan extension and slight raise reportedly up $25k to $525,000 with bonuses possible, he’s is nowhere near those paying numbers.
Take into account that Charlie Strong was hired at an extreme discount for his first two years of his USF deal, because Texas is paying most of his $5 million salary, and Bulls fans ought to get concerned.
Concerned further, that Strong has been privately and at times, publicly, complaining to anyone who will listen, about USF’s lack of indoor practice and football only facilities. And he’s been frequently bringing up their charter travel, lack of attendance at Raymond James Stadium for games, etc., etc.
Further, according to one source close to things at USF, Strong constantly projects like a man biding his time until December, when his Texas money is up, and he, then, can jump back into an SEC, ACC, Big XII, etc. job again, for the same level of pay with all the facilities and budget.
And, if that happens in December, would Harlan look to bolt, especially for a Pac 12 or Big 12 opportunity, himself?
For now, USF can feel “warm and fuzzy” that agreed to stay longer, but a bigger job comes calling? You have to believe he would look to leave.
USF QB Blake Barnett leads 4th quarter rally past Illinois
The USF Bulls travel to “the Windy City” and save their best for last in a thrilling rally to defeat Big Ten opponent Illinois 25-19 Saturday.
Transfer quarterback Blake Barnett led an 18-point fourth-quarter rally throwing for 411 yards and the game-winning touchdown, as the Bulls improved to 3-0.
Trailing 19 to 7 entering the final frame, Barnett (above) threw a touchdown to Darnell Salomon from 14 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 19-14. Later at the midway point of the 4th, Barnett guided another 71-yard drive into the red zone, but when it stalled, Coby Weiss kicked 26 yard field goal to bring USF within two.
After the Bulls defense got to stop, and starting from his 15-yard line, Barnett got them rolling again. He hit completions of 17 and then, 25 yards to get the Bulls to the Illinois 40.
Then, after an incompletion and a couple of false start penalties, USF was facing 3rd and 20 at Midfield. That’s when Barnett lofted a pass down the left sideline to a wide-open Salomon for 50 yards and the eventual game-winning score.
Illinois secondary had blown the coverage leaving Solomon by himself. The Bulls got the two-point conversion and a six-point lead at 25-19.
Illinois had one last chance left, and freshman quarterback M.J, Rivers led them into USF territory, including converting a fourth down in the final :30. However, they could get no closer with Rivers throwing incomplete out of the back of the end zone on the final play of the game.
The win gives USF a second straight 3-o start under coach Charlie Strong and completes back-to-back wins over the Illini, including last year’s victory in Tampa in September.
The loss is especially stinging for Illinois and embattled Coach Lovie Smith, who used to coach the Buccaneers and the Bears. Smith, who did not win a Big Ten game a year ago, is under fire and has now lost 14 of his last 18 games dating back to the end of the 2016 season.
The Bulls also got a 136 yard rushing performance from Jordan Cronkrite that included a first-quarter three yard touchdown run.
USF returner Terrence Horne showed “speed kills”
There is no substitute for speed in big time college football, and we know that for most of the prominent teams in the state, they have it everywhere.
And for USF on Saturday, a guy that they knew about but most did not, burst upon the American Conference and national scene. Terrence Horne (above), a true freshman and former track star at Miramar High School, set a USF and American Conference record for return yardage. This after he blazed down the sidelines with 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Bulls 49-38 upset of Georgia Tech.
That earned Horne the American’s Special Teams Player of the Week honors for weekend #2 of the season.
Horne very nearly broke his first kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday before being tripped up, but then put together two spectacular runs to the end zone in a wild first quarter in Tampa.
When it was all said and done, Horne had 264 yards worth of kickoff returns. At only 5’7, he doesn’t “stand tall” in stature, however, his play was large for the Bulls. Horne followed a 98 yard TD return, with an equally impressive 97 yard kickoff return- cutting from the middle down the Bulls sideline and uut racing everyone easily, again to the goal line
If you know Horne’s background, then it becomes more clear. He won the 4A State 100m dash championship earlier this year with a time of 10.4, and was being recruited by several prominent programs. Those included UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado and Florida Atlantic before signing with the Bulls in February
Interestingly, Horne had never had a kickoff return for a touchdown at Miramar High.
Saturday he told the media afterwards,
“It just shows what I can bring for the team. I’m always remaining humble. If you remain humble, God does great things for you. And, today was one of those days.”
The Bulls and head coach Charlie Strong, who’s staff found Horne in South Florida and coached him up to be in the second game of the season making big plays, hope there are more of those days, too.
Bulls wild win over ACC foe Georgia Tech will get some attention
After a string of nine lead changes, the USF Bulls came out victorious over their first “Power 5” opponent of the year in Georgia Tech. USF fought back from a ten-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to regain the lead and hold on for the victory.
Led by transfer quarterback Blake Barnett, the Bulls offense put together three consecutive touchdown drives in the final 12 minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away with the 49-38 victory. Barnett finished the game passing for 202 yards and tossing two touchdowns with only one interception.
He also led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were scored in the fourth quarter as part of the comeback effort.
Duran Bell Jr. and Tyrie McCants were also bright spots on the USF offense. Bell Jr. carried the ball 12 times for 69 yards and scoring a touchdown on a 14 yard run in the third quarter to put USF ahead 28-24 at the time. McCants led a receiving corp that saw six different Bulls catch a pass against the Yellow Jackets. McCants caught 10 passes for 99 yards with his longest being a 24 yard reception.
As expected, the USF defense had difficulty stopping the running game of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 419 yards behind the efforts of quarterback TaQuon Marshall. Marshall accumulated nearly 300 yards of total offense, as well as throwing for one touchdown and rushing for one. Tobias Oliver carried the red zone offense for Georgia Tech, scoring three times from inside the five yard line. Oliver finished the game with 97 yards on 18 carries.
The special teams play proved to be a huge momentum spark for USF early in the game. Terrence Horne ran not one, but two kick returns for touchdowns, the first being 98 yards and the second 97 yards.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) September 8, 2018
South Florida now holds a 2-0 record under new head coach Charlie Strong. The Bulls will travel to Illinois next week for their first road test of the season.
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