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BullBackers in the Tribune

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USF Backers Take Bull By The Horns

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By LENORA LAKE Tribune correspondent

Published: Sep 9, 2006

TAMPA - Gavin McCormick likes almost everything to do with football.

But one of his favorite parts is the pregame tailgate parties sponsored the University of South Florida Bull Backers. The 13-year-old from Riverview attends them with his mother and stepfather.

"It's really fun tailgating. Then it is always really good games," McCormick, an eighth-grader at Eisenhower Middle School, said Sept. 2 as he threw a football with stepuncle Glenn Elmblad, 38, of Odessa.

They are among the participants at the first of the Bull Backers-sponsored tailgate parties of the 2006 season, held on a vacant lot on Ohio Avenue near Raymond James Stadium.

It's All For Good Fun

This afternoon, members and guests of the 5-year-old organization again will don USF jerseys, T-shirts and beads in green and gold for another celebration. They will cook hamburgers and hot dogs, play horseshoes, toss footballs and talk over cold beers and sodas about their favorite subject, the USF Bulls.

Then they will make their way to the stadium for the Bulls' 7 p.m. game against the Florida International University Golden Panthers.

"We are a family-friendly, kid-friendly group," said Gene Haines, 37, of Largo, a law enforcement officer and a founder of the organization who serves as its vice president. "We don't have a lot of restrictions."

Many in the 50-member club are USF alumni, but it isn't a requirement. The desire to have a good time while cheering the Bulls is the No. 1 qualification for membership.

The organization was formed after fans began chatting online, Haines said. They agreed to meet at Lee Roy Selmon's on Boy Scout Boulevard. The founders created bylaws and applied for and received nonprofit status.

The club was founded as the 12th Bull Club, said club President Jim Johnson, 34, of Town 'N Country, an information technology specialist. However, the organizers ran into a legal issue with the trademarked name of the 12th Man Club at Texas A&M and went with Bull Backers, he said.

"We didn't know any faces; we just knew screen names," Haines said. "We wanted to give the fans a way to connect to others, particularly those who couldn't donate big money."

Various Activities

The club sponsors tailgate parties before home games and organizes road trips or TV parties to watch out-of-town games. A highlight was a trip in December to Charlotte, N.C., for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, USF's first bowl game. Members get together at events such as the homecoming parade and the recent USF Fan Appreciation Day.

At Fan Appreciation Day, players and coaches visited a table set up by the club to sign banners and talk about the team with club members.

Tim Newman, 40, a teacher at River Ridge Middle/High School in New Port Richey, brought 14 teachers to the club's tailgate party on Sept. 2. He said they previously were tailgating at the stadium but liked being able to park together at the Bull Backers lot. They also enjoyed meeting other people.

"I think we've got every occupation out here," Newman said.

Most club members are between 30 and 50, but all ages are welcome, Johnson said. Most members are married or in a relationship.

The club also indirectly benefits the athletics department, as guests and new members sometimes buy season tickets.

"We get them in and get them excited," Haines said.

Matt Harbert, 39, an investment analyst from Carrollwood, said, "It's great having a place we can get together and debate what's going well and what's not going well.

"What's there not to like?"


WHAT: University of South Florida Bull Backers, a fan club that offers tailgate parties, TV viewing parties and other activities

WHERE: Tailgating at 3316 W. Ohio Ave. before home football games; viewing parties at Capogna's Dugout, 1653 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater

HOW MUCH: Annual membership dues are $25 per person or $40 per couple. At a tailgate party, parking is $2.50 for members and $10 for the public. Food at the party costs $5 per person.

INFORMATION: Visit www.bullbackers.comor e-mail info@bullbackers.com.

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And I will be there 2day  8-)

Go BULLS !!!

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And I will be there 2day  8-)

Go BULLS !!!

yo, eT, um, Rio, where will you be sitting?  I want to stop by and say, "hello".  I am in section 114 row z seats 1 and 2.

Good to have you up here!

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Good press for the Bull Backers, that is great.  Of course I never knew Gene was such an old fart, but heh, that's the price of talking to the media.

I hope the web hits spike and some memberships and greater participation results.  Good for you guys - sticking with the program for so long.

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Apparently this ran in the South Tampa section of the Trib too.  The guy who owns the coffee shop we go to had it out, because my wife and I (well, the backs of our heads) were pictured in the article watching the USF 10 Yr. DVD.

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