USF football may hold preseason camp in Vero
TAMPA -- USF football coach Skip Holtz's first preseason camp could have an NFL feel to it, as the Bulls are strongly considering spending up to two weeks of August practice across the state in Vero Beach.
USF is in negotiations with officials at the Vero Beach Sports Village, a 65-acre athletic complex formerly known as Dodgertown, the spring training home of the Dodgers for 50 years until 2008.
"We have talked to them, but nothing has been finalized," said Jeff Biddle, director of athletics and marketing for Minor League Baseball, which owns the complex.
USF assistant athletic director Chris Freet confirmed the school has had talks with officials in Vero Beach, but declined further comment. The Bulls are scheduled to open practice in Tampa on Aug. 6, the final day of summer classes at USF, and would have to return to campus by Aug. 23, when fall classes begin. USF opens its season at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 4 against Division I-AA Stony Brook.
USF has never held preseason practice off campus, but other college teams do so -- Cincinnati, which has won the last two Big East titles, has spent two weeks of preseason drills a half-hour northwest of campus at Camp Higher Ground in Indiana each year since 1999. Having the team away from campus and its distractions can allow for better focus and more of a bonding experience among players and coaches.
The Vero Beach complex has gone largely unoccupied since the Dodgers moved to Arizona following spring training in 2008. USF wouldn't be the first football team to train there -- the New Orleans Saints spent 10 preseasons in Vero Beach from 1974-84, and six other NFL teams have worked out there as well. The University of Miami spent its 1992 preseason there after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida -- current Bulls defensive tackles coach Kevin Patrick was a defensive end on that team -- and Ohio State practiced there before the 1995 Citrus Bowl.
The Sports Village has enough lodging to keep the team on-site, with about 90 villas as part of its complex. It's unknown how much of an additional cost the Bulls would incur from two weeks spent off-campus.