The birth of the 'Bull Sharks'
The nickname sounds like a natural, equal parts bovine and bloodthirsty. A catchy, concise moniker illustrating USF's defensive philosophy.
But make no mistake, "Bull Shark" was hardly a no-brainer.
To the contrary, first-year coordinator Tom Allen spent his inaugural weeks on the job investing research and serious thought into the identity he wanted to forge for his unit before settling on sharks.
During USF's bowl media day Tuesday, Allen spoke of the "Bull Shark" genesis, saying he pondered other nicknames before figuratively drifting into salt water.
"Actually I proposed 'Pit Bull,' but that never kind of got (traction)," he said. "The weird thing is, I did a study on just bulls, but they don't attack anybody. ... I wanted something with a bull, because obviously we're Bulls, but it had to be creative."
When his research led to bull sharks, Allen made three discoveries that essentially won him over: Bull sharks pursue their prey from the bottom up (ideal for stressing pursuit from various angles), they have no eyelids (reinforcing the notion of never blinking) and they can smell blood from three miles away.
"One drop of blood," Allen said.
Voila. A mindset and marketing tool were spawned. Allen sold Coach Willie Taggart on the name, then had a videographer piece together footage of various shark attacks (on other sea creatures, not humans). During spring drills, he showed the video to his players.
"I could've (vetoed it), but it was pretty cool," Taggart said. "It's what we needed. We needed personality and something the kids believed in. That's something they got behind, they believed in and they're taking pride in it."
Perhaps by no coincidence, USF enters the Miami Beach Bowl ranked in the top 30 in Division I in six categories. Its 15 interceptions are the most since the 2010 Bulls squad collected the same number, and it held six American Athletic Conference foes to at least 14 points below their respective season scoring averages.
"You've just got to have an identity," Allen said. "It could be anything."