Quick USF notes from Around the Horns
First and foremost, a Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Hope everyone has a good weekend.
A few good notes from Friday's "Around the Horns" dinner at Bayou Club in Largo, which had a good showing for the Pinellas stop in USF's summer coaches tour ...
-- Athletic director Doug Woolard talked with excitement about the facility upgrades starting all over USF's athletic district this summer -- he said in talking with folks at HOK, an industry leader in sports architecture, they said they couldn't remember a single athletic department having more projects going at once than what USF has right now. Again, that's new baseball and softball stadiums for next spring, as well as a new basketball practice facility and new practice fields for football. He held two fingers up in the air in saying USF was "this close" in adding a soccer stadium to the package, as we reported this week.
-- Stan Heath's optimism for next season starts with a strong returning frontcourt -- Gus Gilchrist, Jarrid Famous, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and transfer Ron Anderson. "I'll put that group against anybody i nthe country, I promise you," said Heath, who will have a very green backcourt, with three junior college transfers, a freshman and rising sophomores Shaun Noriega and Mike Burwell working with point guard Anthony Crater. Heath said his new practice facility will help in recruiting -- "winning and facilities get you recruits, and recruits get you more winning," he said.
-- New football coach Skip Holtz was a hit, talking for nearly 20 minutes about positivity and his eagerness for the season ahead -- don't think he mentioned a single USF player by name. He can work a room like this pretty well -- I don't want to spoil his best lines, but in talking about the speed of former ECU running back Chris Johnson (now an NFL MVP with the Titans): "4.26 speed is like playing tennis by yourself. He turns the lights out and is in bed before it's dark." If you know someone who was there, ask them for his "little bird" joke.
-- USF baseball coach Lelo Prado conceded that his team "struggled all year," and yet still finished tied for fourth in the Big East standings. He and Holtz have developed a quick friendship -- as Prado walked to the podium, Holtz kept clapping a good five seconds after everyone else, and the two traded barbs throughout the night. If Prado can convince junior pitchers Randy Fontanez and Andrew Barbosa to come back for their senior years rather than sign pro contracts, he'll have dominant starting pitching to build around in a new stadium in 2011. Good news for USF's bats, too, as the outfield walls will be brought in from their current dimensions at USF's new stadium -- perhaps 20 feet closer down the lines.
-- Most overlooked USF team this past year might be women's golf, where coach Marci Kornegay earned Big East Coach of the Year honors and freshman Shena Yang was the league Rookie of the Year after USF took second place at the conference championships. Kornegay took time to thank former men's coach Jim Fee, now in an administrative role as USF's director of athletic events and championships, for showing her the ropes in her three years since joining the Bulls.
-- USF has two more "Around the Horns" in the next week or so -- at Lakewood Ranch on Friday for Manatee and Sarasota counties, then at Tampa Palms a week from Monday for the Hillsborough stop. You can find more information here.