USF athletics Q&A with Judy Genshaft
We don't have many opportunities to speak with USF President Judy Genshaft about the state of the Bulls' athletic department or the Big East, but Saturday afforded us that in the moments after USF announced Willie Taggart as its new head football coach. Here's what she had to say:
Q: When did you first get to meet Taggart, and what was your first impression?
A: "I met him yesterday (Friday) on the phone, and just before I came to this press conference, I met him in person. The phone call was very exciting. I had read about him, Googled him. He just seemed like a very good fit for the University of South Florida. I, as a president, am very concerned about somebody that is a clean coach, one that will watch the academics as well as the on-field play. I'm thrilled.
Q: You guys had the option to go with some veteran, experienced coaches, guys who have been at high levels of college football. You're going with a guy who is 36 years old, one of the youngest coaches in the country. What gives you that confidence that he can handle all the things that come with being a head coach?
A: "That's what we are as an institution. We're a young institution that surprises people about how fast we can move and how much we can achieve. I see that in Coach Taggart. I think he's going to be very surprising ... building a team that is unlike ones we've had at least in the previous history. He's a great recruiter. He knows the Florida landscape. Can't be better."
Q: What is going on with the Big East, the future of the Big East, the future for you guys?
A: "The Big East is all about opportunity. We're a national league right now. We've got a lot of teams there. It's been very difficult to answer what's going to be in the future, because it's dominos. One league takes another and it goes back and forth. As of now, we're really happy with the Big East. We've got one of the best basketball programs ever. We've got Madison Square Garden for the next 8 to 10 years. It's pretty exciting. We're bringing on some good teams: Boise and Navy will be coming in. It's going to be good."
Q: Do you ever have a sense of stability in the league? It seems like there's so much change.
A: "There's so much change for everybody. You watch it even more closely than I do. What is your predicition about what's going to happen?"
Q: Hopefully you know better than we do. It's hard to know when it will stop and who will be where.
A: "I don't know. I don't know. We had no idea that, for example, the Big Ten was going to expand to the Big 14, are they the Big 14 now? Did you have a clue that was going to happen?"
Q: It's one of those "anything can happen" type things. It seemed like there would be a period of stability, but clearly it's not there yet.
A: "I thought is was going to be also. My crystal ball isn't that clear."
Q: Do you have faith with the resources you have here that wherever you land, it's going to be in a good place?
A: "We do. I do. I think Florida is such a good media market, such a large state. We're sports crazy here, which is great. I know nationally, I've been president of almost every organization I can think of nationally for higher ed. We are out there. We are definitely out there. I hope we always compete at the highest level."
Q: You're walking a little bit of a tightrope, in that you're head of the Big East (executive board) organization but you have to keep your eyes open for what's going on nationally, right?
A: "We always keep our eyes open, as everybody does. The Big East has done so much for this institution. It will be very interesting when we finish our media contract. Everybody's looking for inventory, and we've got inventory. I'm very optimistic."
Q: You guys obviously have a lot of enthusiasm about this decision, about the future with Coach Taggart. How hard was the decision a week ago, in terms of making a chance and deciding you had to find somebody else?
A: "It was difficult. It was sad. It was too bad. You've got to win on the field as well as in the classroom. We were very pleased with the results in the classroom, but it wasn't on the field as well."
Q: Do you have a sense for when that decision was clear for you, when you knew a change had to be made?
A: "Well, the last game was really tough. (Tough, in terms of the crowd?) Everything. It just wasn't what it needed to be. We're an institution that's used to really progressing and achieving in every way. This just didn't match it. It's all about accountability and making the grade."