Notes from Around the Horns in Clearwater ...
Lots of little notes to share from a great couple of hours at Monday night's "Around the Horns" dinner at Island Way Grill in Clearwater -- USF has changed up the event from previous years, dropping the golf and focusing on the dinner part of the event. There's another one tonight for folks in Sarasota and Manatee counties at Michael's on East in Sarasota. USF has also changed the geography and reach of the events, with dinners in Atlanta, Dallas and New Jersey and no event in Hillsborough County, which already has many events with access to coaches and athletic director Doug Woolard.
-- Biggest news, as we shared last night, was USF unveiling Corbett Soccer Stadium, as the new venue will be called, thanks to a donation of $1.5 million from former Rowdies owner Cornelia Corbett and her husband Richard. The Corbetts have been very active in community philanthropy, but this is their first gift to USF. The Corbetts have been synonymous with soccer in the Tampa area, and this carries that on to future generations as well. The Corbetts said some of their original Rowdies memorabilia will be showcased at USF. I'm not aware of anything that would have the Rowdies' current incarnation, FC Tampa Bay, playing on USF's home field.
Woolard also mentioned that former USF soccer player John Connelly, who is on USF's Hall of Fame executive committee and was in attendance Monday night, was kind enough to make an undisclosed donation toward the costs of the new stadium.
Mrs. Corbett is on the board of the USF Foundation, as is Dr. Shaukat Chowdhari, who made a $1.3 million donation this spring with his wife Antonina toward the Chowdhari Golf Center practice facility, the latest in USF's package of facility upgrades. Construction should begin on the golf facility in two months, Woolard said, adding that the Muma Basketball Center practice facility should be completed July 8.
-- USF men's basketball may open the upcoming season with Division II Florida Southern, though the contract hasn't been finalized. We know this because one of the Mocs' players -- guard Damon Ellison -- wrote on Twitter.com on Tuesday morning that "We open up with USF this year, im goin for 25 and the dub" -- dub, as in W, as in win. The Mocs went 23-9 in Division II, but it's likely USF wouldn't have problems with a lower-tier school, even in an unfamiliar venue as the Sun Dome is being renovated. Woolard, by the way, showed a slide of what the new Sun Dome interior might look like: "I promise you you will not even recognize it," he said. (No, USF isn't sharing renderings publicly yet.)
-- USF's women's basketball schedule has gotten a little easier ... and tougher. The Big East announced Monday a few new "repeat" opponents for the upcoming season -- the 16-game conference season has each team playing one team both home and away. And after playing a 24-win Georgetown team twice this past spring, USF will now get to play Seton Hall, which went 1-15 in league in 2011 and has yet to beat the Bulls in six years of Big East play.
On the other hand, one of USF's tournament opponents has been replaced with Dayton, which went 21-12 and made the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. The Bulls already have Miami, Florida State, Auburn, Arkansas and Minnesota on their nonconference schedule, so Jose Fernandez's team will be well-tested before Big East play even begins.
-- Holtz, as can be expected, is very excited and optimistic about the season ahead, saying his team could be even better defensively than it was in his first season. He likes the way the offensive line is coming together and talked about the maturity and progress B.J. Daniels has shown, benefitting from the continuity of playing in the same offense for consecutive seasons. He also said he's much more comfortable with his receiving corps, pointing out that Derrick Hopkins was the fastest man in the Big East (winning the indoor 60 and 200 and outdoor 100 meter titles in track) but is the second-fastest guy among USF receivers, behind Lindsey Lamar, who sat out this spring after shoulder surgery.
-- Line of the night was Holtz praising Woolard for his efforts in overseeing USF's facility upgrades, then joking that there's "no bitterness that you spent $50 million on basketball and $3 million on football."