USF mourns death of 'humble icon' Selmon, 56
Lee Roy Selmon, the Hall of Fame football player and Bucs star who led the charge to bring football to USF and helped the Bulls rise to national relevance, died Sunday, two days after suffering a stroke in Tampa. He was 56.
"He was the most humble icon I've ever had the honor of being around," said former Bulls men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg, who considered Selmon a friend and mentor. "He had tremendous integrity, great leadership skills, and he had likeability. He was the most genuine, honest, open, sincere person I've known. He had a quiet leadership, and what he brought to the university was credibility."
Selmon was USF's athletic director from 2001-04 but had worked for the Bulls since 1993, and the man who preceded him as AD, Paul Griffin, said his reputation as a great player and a better person helped USF pick up key supporters as the Bulls sought to add a football program.
"Now the program has coaches and players that become the face of the program," Griffin said. "Prior to having that, there couldn't have been a better person, a representative of all the good things about college football than Lee Roy. That's why we sought, recruited and were fortunate to get him to join the team, to be the face of the program before we had a ball or a helmet. It was just a vision."
After stepping down as athletic director in 2004, Selmon remained an active part of USF's athletic department, leading the Bulls' fundraising efforts and making possible many of the ambitious facility upgrades USF has accomplished in recent years.
"When you're part of something that's unique and special to you, you want to stay connected to it," Griffin said. "Many of us, Lee Roy especially included, were equity stakeholders if you will, and will always be. You can only start something one time."
USF President Judy Genshaft and current athletic director Doug Woolard will speak to reporters at 9 p.m. Sunday about Selmon's significance to USF as a university. Football coach Skip Holtz, whose team wore No. 63 decals on their helmets in Saturday's historic win at Notre Dame, will speak at 9:30 as well.
Woolard said Saturday that playing in such a significant football game would not have been possible without Selmon, because football at USF would not have been possible without his early and dedicated involvement. Griffin said that Selmon selflessly allowed his prominence to become USF's in the Tampa community.
"His phone calls were always returned. Messages were never left stale on someone's desk," Griffin said. "When he called, you gave him an appointment. More importantly, people genuinely enjoyed being in his company. He had the unique skill to make you feel good about being around him. That was his most effective character trait as a fundraiser. People wanted to support the cause he was championing."
Selmon's son, Lee Roy Jr., was a defensive tackle for the Bulls from 1999-2004, bridging the gap from USF's roots as a I-AA program to its years in Conference USA. Greenberg said Selmon was like a parent for countless players, and a guiding voice for the school's coaches.
"I remember sitting with him one day watching a (Bucs) game and someone made a play, got up and started doing some stuff," Greenberg said. "He looked at me and said 'I just don't understand that.' I said 'What do you mean, Coach Selmon?' He said, 'If you're a good player, you're supposed to do that.' It was so simple. ... It was not a job. He wanted to make a difference. He mentored so many people, coaches and players alike, and I'm sure he even realized he was doing it."