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USF scores big AD hire with Michael Kelly of College Football Playoff

Florida Football Insiders



Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The USF Bulls and their search firm vowed that they would not take long to replace departed athletic director Mark Harlan.

And on Tuesday, less than a month after Harlan left for the University of Utah, USF announced that they hired College Football playoff senior executive Michael Kelly, to return to Tampa to run the athletic department that he used to be part of.

The school announced the move here:

Kelly who’s been the COO of the College Football Playoff since it’s inception in 2012, was previously in Tampa as USF’s, associate athletic director for external affairs for two years (2001-02).

Previously to working for the CFP, Kelly had spent six years with the Atlantic Coast Conference, as a senior associate commissioner overseeing football, broadcasting and communications.

USF included these comments from him in the release:

“I am truly honored to return to the University of South Florida and Tampa Bay. This is a dream opportunity for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to President Genshaft and the USF Board of Trustees,” Kelly said. “It’s a very exciting time with the university and the entire region on such strong upward trajectories. I can’t wait to get started with our student-athletes, coaches, staff, Bulls fans, donors and alumni everywhere.”

Kelly also, has an extensive background and history with Tampa Bay and big events, as he was the executive director of the 1999 Men’s Final Four organizing committee for the event that was held at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg.

His excellent work with that led him to be the president of the Super Bowl host Committee in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl 35 (2001) and later have that same role in Jacksonville for Super Bowl 39 and in Miami for Super Bowl 41.

The Bulls currently reside in the American Athletic Conference, which is a compilation of leftover teams from the old Big East and some added teams from Conference USA. However, that League has nowhere near the revenue as the “Power 5” conferences, and it will be a challenge for Kelly, just like it is for the other schools, to raise money and try to level the playing field.

USF has to consider this a “home run hire” to replace Harlan, as Kelly brings tremendous credibility from college football’s most important post-season brand. And, because of Kelly’s relationship at the network TV level from his days with the CFP and also with the ACC, it will benefit the American Athletic Conference to have him now in the fold as well.

The Bulls will introduce Kelly at a news conference later this week.

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USF Bulls

After Saturday blowout loss, concern USF may plummet further

Florida Football Insiders



Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t say that you weren’t warned. The USF Bulls were hammered in surprisingly easy fashion by a previously 3-5 Tulane team at Raymond James Stadium Saturday. However, that’s not the worst part.

The reality staring at the Green and Gold and coach Charlie Strong is: they look like a team that may lose out in the regular season. Think that’s hyperbole? Keep reading.

After getting their record to 7 -0, but being questioned all along the way by us and a lot of others as to the level of competition, USF did nothing to help their own case these last two weeks.

The Bulls have been blown away, especially defensively in two straight losses.

Last week it was D’Eriq King with his seven total touchdowns in an easy win for Houston. Saturday it was Tulane with two 100-yard rushers and totaling 364 yards on the ground in a game that they led 34-3 and won eventually 41-15.

The larger looming question is: with road games at Cincinnati and Temple the next two weeks, who are clearly in the top half of the American Conference, followed by the best team in the AAC coming to Tampa on 11/23 in UCF, will the Bulls even win another game in the regular season?

The Bearcats won again on Saturday 42-0 over Navy and are now 8 and 1. They are up next for the Bulls.. Then, Temple, who gave UCF all they can handle Thursday night in Orlando will host the Bulls and they have the lone win over the Bearcats at the moment. Plus, quarterback Anthony Russo appears to be the real deal throwing and running. That’s bad news.

And UCF, is well, UCF, and the fact that the Bulls have been suspect to this point stopping teams, is not encouraging for that rivalry game.

The narrow comeback wins against awful teams like Illinois, and Tulsa are coupled with struggling to put away bad teams like East Carolina and UConn are a memory. Yes it helped the Bulls remain unbeaten, but it masked that they were vulnerable, especially on D.

We wrote earlier in the week that Charlie Strong might be a candidate for the Maryland job, but we did put a contingency that if the Bulls were to fall apart it would hurt his leverage to go somewhere else.
And, it very well may.

However, “going somewhere else.” shouldn’t be a priority right now. It should be fixing the defense which is Strong’s Forte’.

If it’s not fixed, it’s going to be a long November and 7 – 0 is going will be forgotten for 2018

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USF Bulls

USF coach Charlie Strong already leading candidate at Maryland?

Florida Football Insiders



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not even December, but the “coaching rumor carousel” has already cranked up and it applies to the new opening at the University of Maryland and the USF Bulls head coach, Charlie Strong.

First you’re probably aware of the “dumpster fire” type controversy for the Maryland athletic department that has led to this week coach DJ Durkin being reinstated and then fired the following day.

This came after Durkin was placed on paid leave, while in almost 90 day investigation was going on into the death during conditioning in the offseason of defensive lineman Jordan McNair.

Maryland’s decision to put Durkin back on the sidelines for practice this week and potentially start coaching games again, was met with an uproar from the campus and the college football world.

Again, the governor of Maryland and the Board of Regents quickly reversed course and fired Durkin Wednesday afternoon.

So now the Big Ten school has an opening and there will be all kinds of names linked to it.

One of those names is the second-year coach of the Bulls, Who currently has them sitting at 7 and 1 this season and Charlie Strong comes off a 10-win season a year ago.

Two prominent college football writers already engaged in this speculation, including Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, who listed Strong as the top candidate for the Terps job. national college football writer and columnist Dennis Dodd put out a lengthy list of names but also had Strong as one of his top candidates saying:

Strong is 17-3 in his second season at USF. All he needs is the perfect entree back to Power Five after being fired at Texas. Strong would be that calming influence. A master recruiter, Strong could activate D.C.-area talent that has long avoided Maryland. If I’m Evans, Strong is one of my first calls.

Strong obviously was on a fast track to the big time of college coaching after leading the Louisville Cardinals to a great season and upset of the Gators in the Sugar Bowl in 2012.

Strong eventually took the job at the University of Texas, but was fired in 2016 after three sub-par seasons in Austin going 16-21.

We have repeatedly written that Strong is a candidate to jump to a Power 5 school, in part because he has been privately frustrated and complaining about USF’s lack of an indoor practice facility and other upgrades. That includes a grand plan to have an on-campus football stadium for the Bulls, which is currently in the early fundraising stage.

One critical component is that USF is unable to pay Strong what he has been making previously at the University of Texas and would potentially make at a program like Maryland enticing. Strong’s contract has been structured the last couple of years so the Texas was paying more than 90% of it in the form of the over  $8 million dollars that they still owed him.

That goes away after this year and USF would be on the hook for his full salary starting in 2019, and it’s not likely that the Bulls can start paying Strong even in a new contract $3 – 4 million per year.

One more factor is the daunting end to the Bulls schedule. That includes a road game at Temple, a home game with Cincinnati and then, the critical matchup hosting UCF in the regular season finale.

If Strong is not successful in most of those games, then, some of the luster will come off of his coaching star.

Still, it is interesting that the  national media is bringing up his name for the Maryland opening.

Meanwhile, the Bulls will try to get back on the winning track when they host Tulane on Saturday night.

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USF Bulls

Charlie Strong and Major Applewhite- two Texas “exes” meet, again

Matt Zemek



Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Major Applewhite was not going to become head coach at the University of Texas.

Not after this story. He was toast.

Instead, Charlie Strong became head coach at the University of Texas.

He then brought Shawn Watson as his offensive coordinator from Louisville to Austin. He paid very dearly for that mistake.

Two years later, Strong was dragged through a humiliating public spectacle of begging Sterlin Gilbert of Tulsa to become his offensive coordinator. Gilbert did well at the 40 Acres, but not well enough — not with a Longhorn defense which remained inconsistent. Gilbert did establish a greater foothold in the college football industry — but not at Texas. He gained a life raft to Tampa as South Florida’s — and Strong’s — offensive coordinator when Charlie’s Texas career fell apart

Applewhite lived the dream of being a Texas Longhorn quarterback, but he permanently ruined his chances of ever being Texas coach. Charlie Strong had his dream job as Texas coach, but that dream turned into a nightmare.

Two coaches both carry their share of Texas-sized scars. Two men toiling in the AAC certainly covet a chance at a bigger job, no matter what they might say or hide in public.

Two men stood at the center of college football at earlier points in the 21st century — Applewhite at Texas in 2001, when the Horns nearly reached the BCS title game; Strong in 2008 at Florida, when he helped Urban Meyer win a second national title and made it impossible to be ignored by athletic directors any longer.

They now meet in a game which is important enough as it is in the standings.. but probably carries more personal significance than the two met will let on.

We naturally focus on USF, given our mandate to examine Florida-based football programs, but it is worth spending a little time on Houston’s identity in 2018. The Cougars are not an exact replica of USF, but they have drawn enough comparisons to the Bulls to the point that they can fairly be viewed as a team with a similar identity

No, Houston has not allowed most of its games to come down to the fourth quarter. That’s South Florida’s music so far this season, as you know. Houston has been able to take care of its wins before the final several minutes, but it remains that the Cougars have played sleepy and sloppy first halves to create second-half headaches. This happened most centrally at home against Tulsa, which gained a nine-point lead midway through the second half before Houston blitzed the Golden Hurricane on a massive scoring run which barely took any time. Houston’s tendency to snooze through first halves, especially on defense, was also in evidence against Rice and Navy.

These are not the same exact teams, but they have done enough to merit some comparisons, many of them unflattering. This leads us to another Applewhite-Strong intersection: Pundits and analysts can reasonably claim that both men have not coached their teams as well as their records — and their places in the AAC standings — might indicate.

That last point underscores the climate of dissatisfaction which envelops this game. Even though Houston is the clear favorite in its division, and even though South Florida is unbeaten, these two teams are widely doubted… and the doubts come from an entirely legitimate place. Applewhite and Strong both want to make their mark. After unceremonious exits from the University of Texas — a place synonymous with college football royalty — two head coaches with a desire to make it big in their careers face a game which, if lost, will validate every criticism lobbed toward them this season.

The winner won’t gain leverage so much as the loser will cede an enormous amount of standing in the coaching industry. If either man wants to make the jump to a bigger job — probably not this year, but more reasonably in 2019 or 2020 — winning this game becomes extremely important if only because neither man can afford to lose ground This isn’t a reputation-maker; it’s a possible reputation-breaker for the loser.

The value of winning this Saturday is that it will set up bigger games down the line. In either team’s case, that game will be against UCF. Houston wants to face the Knights for the AAC title in December. USF wants to make sure that when it plays UCF on Thanksgiving weekend, that contest — as in 2017 –– will decide the AAC East championship and be the springboard a Group of Five title and a New Year’s Six bowl berth.

Major Applewhite. Charlie Strong. Two Texas exes must travel a long road — with no quick fixes — to build their coaching reputations to the point where they can dream bigger dreams in their careers. The men who have closed some doors to their careers are still searching for new portals to walk through.

They need to win the Houston-USF game this Saturday if they are to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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