Selmon's wide impact on USF still appreciated
TAMPA -- The late Lee Roy Selmon is best known to Bulls fans for leading the charge to bring football to USF, but the Pro Football Hall of Famer's impact across the Bulls' athletic department will be all the more evident this week and in the future.
In a move that USF President Judy Genshaft first announced at Selmon's funeral service in September, USF's main athletic facility -- a centerpiece building built during his time as athletic director -- will be formally renamed the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center on Wednesday afternoon.
"An enduring example of integrity, academic excellence, compassion, competitiveness and commitment to young people," reads the plaque outside the main entrance to the building that now bears his name, but you can see Selmon's legacy quite literally on USF's athletes this spring.
Baseball coach Lelo Prado is having one player each game wear No. 63 in tribute to Selmon -- through three games, that player has had at least one hit, and the Bulls are 3-0
"They've embraced it, and now I have a big problem, because now I've got everybody wanting to wear it," Prado said Tuesday. "I would love to dress 35 guys in No. 63, because we know he's looking down on us. It would make my life a lot easier. It's a tribute to what kind of man he was, and it's special to them. Before I give them the jersey, I ask them 'Do you know what this is about?' They all know, because they all knew Lee Roy Selmon."
USF's softball players all have a No. 63 decal on their helmets, and coach Ken Eriksen said fans might not fully appreciate the scope of Selmon's legacy across the width of the Bulls athletic department.
"I don't think people realize that," said Eriksen, remembering how Selmon not only went to an NCAA regional at Alabama with the softball team in 2001, but sat at the same table, in among the student-athletes. "I'll never forget that. All the girls were around him, and he's telling stories and they're loving him. That went on for years and years."
That genuine interest in every athlete in every sport is what Eriksen will appreciate today as he attends the dedication ceremony for the Selmon Center. Eriksen said his continued presence with the Bulls, as with many people, is a credit to Selmon and how much he cared.
"I still wouldn't be here," said Eriksen, remembering that when athletic director Paul Griffin was forced to resign in 2001, it was Selmon who sought him and others out and reminded them why they needed to stay at USF. "He changed the course of lives. He was the guy that made sure I stayed. Because he was such a great man, when he told you he loved you and wanted you here, how do you say 'No' to that type of guy? He was a real good friend."