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USF football: a chronology

The Tampa Tribune

December 13, 1995

Author: Joey Johnston

Estimated printed pages: 2

Here's the timeline -- past, present and future -- for University of South Florida football:

October, 1991 -- USF president Frank Borkowski meets with a 40-person task force to assess the feasibility of adding a football program.

March 20, 1992 -- Leon Mandell, task force chairman, reports to Borkowski that football would be feasible at USF.

March 21, 1992 -- Borkowski refers issue to USF Athletics Council.

April 2, 1992 -- Stewart Schneller, Athletics Council chairman, requests comments from the university community, including the Faculty Senate, Student Government and USF Foundation.

April 24, 1992 -- USF Faculty Senate president Phil Smith requests a postponement on the football decision, saying the issue needs more consideration.

May 28, 1992 -- Athletics Council postpones its football decision until the following December.

June 18, 1992 -- Poll of USF faculty indicates opposition to the continuation of football planning.

Dec. 3, 1992 -- By a 15-2 vote, Athletics Council recommends initiation of a fundraising program for USF football.

July 12, 1993 -- Former Buccaneer Lee Roy Selmon, who would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is named USF's Associate Athletic Director. He is charged primarily with football fundraising.

August, 1993 -- A committee of Tampa Bay area community leaders, co-chaired by Frank Morsani and Peyton Adams, is formed to raise $10 million in two years. When the intermediate goal of $5 million is reached, USF will seek football approval from the Board of Regents.

Oct. 20, 1993 -- USF season-ticket commitments available.

Dec. 10, 1993 -- Betty Castor named USF president.

Oct. 5, 1994 -- USF announces a sponsor-funded $200,000 multimedia blitz to sell season-ticket commitments.

June 28, 1995 -- USF reaches its intermediate $5 million fundraising goal.

July 20, 1995 -- Board of Regents approves a student fee increase of 50 cents per credit hour, beginning in the '95 fall term. Funding for football will receive $350,000 annually.

Aug. 29, 1995 -- Board of Regents straw poll indicates unanimous support for USF football.

Sept. 15, 1995 -- Board of Regents approves USF football during its Orlando meeting. USF's search for a head football coach begins.

Nov. 20-Dec. 4, 1995 -- In order, USF interviews Joe Kinnan, Jack Burns, Dan Allen, Jim Leavitt and Tony Samuel for the head-coaching job.

Dec. 12, 1995 -- Leavitt named USF's first football coach.

January, 1996 -- Hiring of two full-time assistants (offensive and defensive coordinators), plus part-time and volunteer positions.

Feb. 7, 1996 -- Signing of first 15-20 scholarship players.

Spring, 1996 -- Spring drills with walk-on players.

Fall, 1996 -- Intrasquad scrimmages, no games.

Feb. 5, 1997 -- Signing of 15-20 additional scholarship players.

Sept. 6, 1997 -- First game in Division I-AA.


USF opening attracts familiar names

Some well-known coaches and former Bucs have expressed interest in becoming USF's first coach.

The Tampa Tribune

September 29, 1995

Author: RON KASPRISKE; Tribune Staff Writer

Estimated printed pages: 3

TAMPA -- Among the initial list of applicants to become the University of South Florida's first football coach were three former Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a Wall Street stockbroker, a former NFL head coach, a driver's education instructor and two sheriff's deputies.

The Bulls also received re'sume's from several coaches with impressive experience -- enough to make their growing list of candidates very strong.

Leading that group was South Carolina quarterbacks coach John Reaves and high school coaching legend Joe Kinnan of Bradenton Manatee.

As expected, former NFL assistant Jack Burns applied as did former college head coach Fran Curci and longtime University of Florida assistant Jerry "Red" Anderson.

USF, which is still accepting re'sume's, will will narrow the field to between eight and 15 in October and a finalists list of five in early November. Athletic Director Paul Griffin will not comment on specific candidates and said the university is still in the early stages of the selection process.

Nevertheless, 51 people have corresponded with the school in the hopes of being hired to the coaching staff.

"It's an extremely attractive opportunity for a coach," said Burns, who had 10 letters of recommendation attached to his re'sume', including endorsements from former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier.

A thought not lost on several athletes who have ties to the Tampa Bay area. Former Bucs Richard "Batman" Wood, Nathan Wonsley and Calvin Magee applied and former Tampa Bay Bandits wide receiver Eric "E.T." Truvillion also expressed interest in a job on the staff.

Other people with ties to the National Football League who applied were Eddie Khayat, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach (1971-72) and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Ernest Givins. Khayat also was an assistant with the Bucs from 1992-93.

Among the notable college coaches who either applied or were recommended for the position were Kansas State defensive coordinator Jimmy Leavitt; East Carolina offensive coordinator Todd Berry; Mississippi State assistant head coach James Helms and former offensive coordinators Daryl Dickey (Kentucky) and Alex Wood (Wake Forest).

Reaves headlines the list because of his name recognition around the state. The graduate of Robinson High quarterbacked the Florida Gators from 1969-71 and was an assistant coach there from 1990-94.

"My mind's on helping Carolina get rolling, but that [uSF] is going to be a great opportunity for somebody," Reaves said. "Right now, if we don't win some games, I don't think anybody's gonna want [me]."

Kinnan could be valuable to the program because of his reputation as one of the all-time best high school coaches in Florida history. He has led Manatee to a 153-29 record and four state titles since 1981. He also has college coaching experience as an assistant at Eastern Kentucky and was recommended for the USF job by EKU coach Roy Kidd.

Other high school coaches who applied include former Hillsborough coach **** O'Brien and former Plant City coach Floyd Kelly.

(CHART) Early entries

Here's a partial list of applicants who have expressed interest in being

the USF's first head football coach. Some of the applicants listed were

recommended for the job and did not apply personally.

Name Credentials

Jerry Anderson Asst. head coach at Florida in 1994, 10 years on staff

Todd Berry Offensive coordinator East Carolina

Jack Burns Former NFL assistant with Redskins, Vikings

Fran Curci Former head coach at Kentucky, Miami, UT

Daryl Dickey Former offensive coordinator at Kentucky, asst. at FSU

Anthony Folino TV sports analyst/former asst. coach at Michigan State

James Helms Assistant head coach at Mississippi State

Melvin Jones Florida A&M assistant coach

Doug Kay Charlotte Rage head coach

Eddie Khayat Former def. line coach with Bucs; ex-Eagles head coach

Joe Kinnan Bradenton Manatee High coach/former asst. at E. Kentucky

Jim Leavitt Kansas State defensive coordinator

John Reaves QB coach at South Carolina, former UF assistant

Frank Spaziani Calgary (CFL) assistant/former Virginia def. coordinator

James Ward Former Buffalo State College head coach

Alex Wood Former offensive coordinator at Wake Forest

[] Note: This list does not represent a list of "favorites" as supplied

by USF. Athletic Director Paul Griffin will not comment on any candidates.

Zook candidate as USF's first coach

Ocala Star-Banner (FL)

November 23, 1995


NYT Regional Newspapers

Estimated printed pages: 2

GAINESVILLE -- Florida assistant coach Ron Zook is a candidate for the new head coaching job at the University of South Florida.

Zook has spoken with USF athletic director Paul Griffin and possibly could interview for the job after the Gators play in the Dec.2 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

South Florida will begin play in Division I-AA in the fall of 1997.

Other candidates for the job at this stage are former Minnesota Vikings assistant Jack Burns, Boston University coach Dan Allen and Kansas State defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.

Highly successful Bradenton Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan interviewed for the job Tuesday.


1st class leaves Leavitt "ecstatic'

The Tampa Tribune

February 8, 1996

Author: DOUG CARLSON; Tribune Staff Writer

Estimated printed pages: 3

TAMPA -- The University of South Florida finally can attach names to its football roster, which can mean only one thing.

Quarterback controversy.

The Bulls made quarterbacks Anthony Henry of Fort Myers and Garret Jagdmann of Sarasota two of 18 players signed in the school's first recruiting class Wednesday. While it's early to say who gets the nod on the depth chart, Coach Jim Leavitt merely was happy to display the fruits of his three-week recruiting labor.

"The interest in USF across the state has been overwhelming," said Leavitt, who was visibly excited about the initial results.

Everyone associated appeared a bit surprised at the emphasis placed on college football's holy day.

"I'm very appreciative of the interest. It's certainly a whole different mentality," Athletic Director Paul Griffin said.

Leavitt did not actively begin recruiting or name a coaching staff for USF until January because of his commitment as defensive coordinator at Kansas State.

Including an NCAA-mandatory no-recruiting period during the NCAA's national coaches convention, Leavitt said USF had three weeks to accomplish what most schools have been working on for several years in evaluation and actual recruiting.

"I went into this with no expectations," Leavitt said. "If we had come out of this with one quality person on signing day I would have been excited, so to sign this many, I'm ecstatic."

Leavitt said USF will announce more signings Friday and will continue the recruiting process into the summer.

Under NCAA rules, the Bulls are allowed to give 25 scholarships this year, which may be divided among 30 players. Although the school released a list of 18 names, it made no distinction between those receiving full scholarship aid and those who may not receive any.

"Walk-ons are critical to us and we're not going to make a distinction. We will rely on having a lot of walk-ons and they will be a big part of what we're trying to accomplish," Leavitt said.

True to plans, Leavitt signed only Florida players, including five from Hillsborough County and another five from the Tampa Bay area. The farthest Leavitt strayed from home was to sign three from Miami, West Palm Beach and Jupiter.

"We have got to draw from Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota, Bradenton. ... That's our base and it's critical we do well in those areas," he said.

The initial list includes five offensive linemen, three wide receivers and two each at defensive back, defensive line and running back.

USF signed one linebacker and tight end.

"Right now, we want to get the top players at any position," Leavitt said. "We put an emphasis on leadership ability and players who were captains on their high school team since they are going to have to come in here and step into leadership roles early in their career."

Henry, 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, was a second-team all-state selection at Fort Myers Estero who was named team MVP and district Co-Player of the Year. He passed for 821 yards and rushed for 534 and also was a county-leading punter with a 40.6-yard average.

Jagdmann, 6-3, 180, was a team captain, honor-roll student and all-area selection at Sarasota High.

"Garret [Jagdmann] has an awfully good arm and we feel he's in there with the top group of quarterbacks in the state," Leavitt said, adding he plans to sign at least two more quarterbacks, perhaps three.

Leavitt said he intends to build a foundation with high school players before worrying about adding experience or depth through junior college and transfer players.

(Chart) South Florida signings

Player Pos. Ht. Wt. High School Comment

Isaac Bristol TE 6-4 235 Hillsborough Blocking specialist.

Donald Casey FS 5-11 180 Lake Mary All-state utility player; 1,000-yard


Tony Cleveland OG 6-4 265 Ocala Forest Ocala Star-Banner All-Area team.

Jason Fox LB 6-2 215 Ocala Forest Played defensive tackle at Forest.

Jason Gray L 6-5 260 Land O' Lakes Tribune All-Area performer.

Shawn Hay DL 6-4 235 Jupiter All-conference; recovered seven


Anthony Henry QB 6-1 175 Estero 1,500 all-purpose yards; 3 INTs at DB.

Charlie Jackson WR 5-9 165 Miami Edison All-Dade County; 42 receptions,

739 yards.

Garret Jagdmann QB 6-3 180 Sarasota All-area pick; honor-roll student.

Jason Malouf LB 6-0 205 Tampa Catholic All-county selection.

Leon Matthews RB 6-2 170 Sebring 1,256 combined rushing and receiving


Jariya McIntyre WR 5-8 150 Hillsborough 4.3 speed in 40-yard dash.

Aaron Milton OL 6-2 264 Bradenton Southeast Played on two state title


Cory Porter WR 6-4 190 Tarpon Springs Averaged 25 yards a catch.

Damon Ratcliffe FB 6-1 230 Bloomingdale All-Hillsborough County; 799 yards


Larry Scott OT 6-5 260 Sebring Third-team all-state.

Joey Sipp OL 6-0 285 Hillsborough All-Tribune lineman.

David Thompson DB 5-11 170 Palm Beach Lakes Five INTs; second-team

all-state as a junior.


USF football to be winner, coach predicts

The Tampa Tribune

August 15, 1996

Author: DAVE NICHOLSON; of The Tampa Tribune

Estimated printed pages: 2

SUMMARY: University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt predicts winning ways for his new team. It takes the field next year.

PLANT CITY -- The University of South Florida is a year away from its first football game.

That didn't stop the team's head coach from delivering a pep talk Wednesday to potential fans and football boosters.

Coach Jim Leavitt even had a prediction: USF "is going to win. I don't know how long it's going to take, but it will happen."

Leavitt spoke at the monthly gathering of the chamber of commerce. He was asked to speak about what's in store when the university's new football team takes the field, said Stanley Kolker, a Plant City advertising company owner who emceed the meeting.

Leavitt, a St. Petersburg native, said he always wanted to return to the Tampa Bay area after years of coaching in places like Kansas.

"You can't imagine what it's like to come home to do what you want to do," he said.

As the first football head coach , Leavitt spends a lot of time on the details.

The work includes the mundane, such as buying equipment, to overseeing the painting and construction of practice goalposts.

The team will play at Houlihan Stadium. Leavitt doesn't see the lack of an on-campus stadium as a problem. He noted the University of Miami has been a football powerhouse for years and has played at the Orange Bowl.

The public in the Tampa area seems hungry for college football, Leavitt added.

"We've sold 5,000 season tickets and we haven't even released a schedule or told people where they'll be sitting," he said.

The team will play seven home games its first season with season tickets priced at $72.

Leavitt graduated Dixie Hollins High and received a bachelor's in education and a master's in counseling from the University of Missouri; he excelled in football and baseball.

Leavitt trotted the United States as he pursued his coaching career. His experience includes the University of Dubuque, Morningside College, University of Iowa and Kansas State, where he was defensive coordinator/linebacker coach before accepting the USF job.


Athletic association president scrambles to see Bulls scrimmage

The Tampa Tribune

August 24, 1996

Author: CATHY CUMMINS; of The Tampa Tribune

Estimated printed pages: 2

SUMMARY: The infant USF football team takes the field Sept. 25 for its first scrimmage. It's not a full-fledged game, but fans already are buying tickets.

TAMPA -- John Ruzic this week made another University of South Florida connection.

He's already owner of the Quality Suites Hotel, official hotel of the USF Bulls, already president of the USF Athletic Association and already the proud donor of a $50,000 USF athletic scholarship.

Thursday, Ruzic became the first USF football fan to order a $10 ticket for the team's first scrimmage on Sept. 25 at the university's soccer stadium.

Yes, that's scrimmage -- as in practice. The Bulls' first official football games won't be played until the fall of 1997.

"This is a controlled scrimmage; it's not even a game. It's us against us," USF Athletic Director Paul Griffin said. Us against us -- in a 4,000-seat soccer stadium -- with pauses for coaching advice and practicing plays over and over again, Griffin added.

But Ruzic, a graduate of Florida International University, doesn't let that dampen his enthusiasm.

"I think it's fantastic. We're going to become, like, a regular school," he boomed into the telephone Thursday. "Tampa is dying for this team. We have already sold 5,000 season tickets without having a team."

Griffin expects 6,000 people like Ruzic to pack the stadium. About 2,000 students will have free standing room at the stadium. Donors and season ticket holders can pay $10 for one of 4,000 seats -- and a pre-game barbecue at the Sun Dome, complete with a visit from head coach Jim Leavitt.

Order forms are being mailed to season ticket holders next week. Griffin said he doesn't expect to have any $5 tickets available for the general public on the day of the scrimmage.

"If 70 percent of the season ticket holders exercise their options [on the scrimmage game] , we won't have any room for more people," he said. After waiting 36 years for football -- since the university opened in 1960 -- USF officials are preparing to make the most of the event.

Athletic administrators went to Gainesville recently to see how the football powerhouse University of Florida handled a special media day set aside for interviewing players. USF's own media day is scheduled for Sept. 5; the first practice is Sept. 6.

About 1,200 people have paid a $50 deposit on 5,000 seats for next year's regular football season to be played in Houlihan's Stadium, Griffin said. The full price is $72 for seven home games -- seats between the 20-yard lines have a $100 donation tacked on, he said.

He has also hired 10 people to market season tickets over the telephone -- each ticket sold means a 25 percent commission for the caller. USF hopes to sell 10,000 season tickets.

College football fans in the Tampa Bay area who can't make it to USF's first scrimmage will have two more chances this fall. The team is scrimmaging at Clearwater High on Oct. 9 and Sarasota High on Oct. 26.

USF's Leavitt likes to keep goals in sight

St. Petersburg Times

August 29, 1996


Estimated printed pages: 2

Sometimes, Jim Leavitt scares you. He's a football addict. His frenetic work pace has been well-chronicled. And he has this cult-like ability to draw people to him. He's just that nice.

But then he calls the goalposts on his practice field ""beautiful'' - beautiful? - and you think, this guy can't be serious.

Can he?

""They are absolutely beautiful,'' Leavitt said. ""Sure, they might need a new coat of paint. But some people like to look at mountains, some like to look at beaches. I like to look out my window and see goalposts.''

That's why athletic director Paul Griffin hired Leavitt. That's why many believe USF football will work.

At 4 p.m. Sept. 6, they will start finding out. That's when USF makes its football practice debut, with new equipment (the helmets were sent out to be painted last week), a new lined practice field, and, of course, those absolutely beautiful goal posts. ""It's going to be fun,'' Leavitt said. ""We are so anxious. We want to get out there and make mistakes. How else do you get better?''

The 77 players that make up USF's first class will practice Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays this fall. They will scrimmage a dozen times. Three scrimmages will be scripted for fans, held at rotating stadiums to maximize exposure - Sept. 25 at the USF Soccer Stadium, Oct. 9 at Clearwater High School, and Oct. 23 at Sarasota High School.

""They'll probably be boring scrimmages,'' Leavitt admitted. ""There will be no kicking game. We'll just put the ball down, snap it, hand it off and tackle.''

But this fall will be anything but boring. Leavitt will start looking for his starters, looking for strengths and weaknesses. He will be seeking playmakers. He'll find some; others will come next year.

""We'd like to get our first and second teams set as close as possible,'' he said. ""Then we'll start recruiting to where we're weak.

""We need a great running back, no question. I don't know if we've got one or not. We need a big-time quarterback. That's high, high, high on our priority list. I don't know if we've got one or not. And we need to build our defensive line. We need a great front four. I don't know if we have that or not.''

Leavitt is, however, happy with his first recruiting class. High school All-American Cedric Bell opted for USF after he committed to Florida State. Anthony Henry, a defensive back out of Estero, and Edwin Greene, a defensive back out of Miami Southridge, have earned mention from Leavitt after informal workouts.

""They all look good,'' he said.

Leavitt also praised his assistants, who share his relentless drive, and even tossed in a plug for equipment manager William Sheridan, a former assistant equipment manager with the Cleveland Browns.

Now if Leavitt can just find some time to sleep. The long days will certainly continue, but the rewards will be evident. But if he is this excited about goalposts, how can he expect to catch some winks the night before his first practice?

""Shoot, I'll sleep good,'' he insisted. ""The night before, I'll go to bed about 11:30 on the 50-yard line, and wake up when practice starts.''


USF welcomes college football in style

The Tampa Tribune

September 26, 1996

Author: JOEY JOHNSTON; of The Tampa Tribune

Estimated printed pages: 2

SUMMARY: USF football opens with a bang -- a 70-yard touchdown pass on the first play of its scrimmage in front of 4,975 fans.

TAMPA -- If Wednesday night's public scrimmage was any indication, the University of South Florida football program will be a crowd-pleaser.

First play: Touchdown.

"It was beautiful," said USF quarterback Lance Hoeltke, who threw a scrimmage-opening 70-yard TD pass to wide receiver Charlie Jackson.

That feeling was shared by many of the 4,975 onlookers at the USF Soccer Stadium. It was a significant event, even though USF's football program, 36 years in the making, won't play any games until next season.

Coach Jim Leavitt described it as just another practice. Still, it sure seemed like a game for Bulls fans. The players sprinted through a student tunnel and were greeted by a standing ovation. When the 96-play scrimmage was finished -- 10 TDs were scored in all -- USF players tossed miniature green- and-gold footballs into the stands.

"I didn't expect this to be such a big thing," USF defensive end Shawn Hay said. "It was a really exciting night. I think it gave energy to our whole team."

Hay nearly scored for the defense, racing 47 yards with a fumble before being dragged down from behind. Otherwise, it was an offensive night. And that was by design. Leavitt said his defense was vanilla. No blitzing, no stunting.

"We had some big plays and that was great to see," Leavitt said. "I think we probably looked better than I would've predicted [before the practices began].

"And what can you say about [almost] 5,000 people being here for basically our 10th practice? Amazing. We're so grateful. We really want to give these people something to cheer for."

Assorted offensive highlights: Hoeltke, a sophomore transfer from Austin Peay, tossed two TDs in six attempts and ran for another. Tailback Rafael Williams, a freshman from Perry Taylor County, rushed 19 times for 111 yards. Jackson, a freshman from Miami Edison High, scored on receptions of 70 and 11 yards, plus a 6-yard reverse run.

Jackson's first catch was the night's most memorable play.

"I saw it coming in the air and said to myself, "I better get this one because I'll never have another chance like this again,' " Jackson said. "We were hoping to light it up from the beginning. The people were unbelievable. It was a great show of support for our team. It shows how hungry they are for college football."

USF will hold two more public scrimmages -- Oct. 9 at Clearwater High School and Oct. 23 at Sarasota High School.

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June 18, 1992 -- Poll of USF faculty indicates opposition to the continuation of football planning.


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What a great ride it has been from the beginning.

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