USF athletics: The year in review
In a school year rife with grimace-inducing images, the final snapshot was a keeper. When triple jumper Matthew O'Neal and high jumper Courtney Anderson ascended their respective medal stands to receive All-America recognition at the recent NCAA Championships, the Bulls' 2013-14 athletic season formally concluded. Depending on one's perspective, it was a year to savor or shred. While the most prominent sports teams on campus (football, men's hoops, baseball) struggled to achieve mediocrity, others (tennis, men's soccer) flourished in their grim shadows. Meantime, upheaval became trendy. Stan Heath and Doug Woolard left. Roberto Cid and Courtney Williams arrived. Unlikely stars emerged from out of the blue (Marvin Kloss), while new coaches emerged from out of the Bluegrass (Orlando Antigua). Dismal? Yes, at times. Dull? Never. It all warrants one last lengthy reflection before embarking on a new year. From the superlatives to the sound bites to the surreal moments, here's your 2013-14 nutshell, in awards fashion.
Male Athlete of the Year
Matthew O'Neal, Soph., Soccer/Track and Field
Sorta tough to argue with a two-sport athlete who performs best at the most critical stage. A defender on the Bulls soccer team that allowed one goal in the American Athletic Conference tournament, O'Neal placed fourth at the NCAAs in the triple jump with a school-record effort (53 feet, 2.5 inches).
Also in the conversation: Kloss (football), Cid (tennis), Chase Koepka (golf)
Female Athlete of the Year
Sara Nevins, Sr., Softball
This potential future Olympian ended arguably the greatest softball career in USF lore as the program's career leader in several categories including wins (101), strikeouts (1,103), saves (20) and opponent batting average (.170). In nearly 26 innings at the NCAA Regionals, Nevins allowed nine hits and three runs.
Also in the conversation: Anderson (track), Erin Fairs (volleyball), Williams (basketball)
Coach of the Year
George Kiefer, Men's Soccer
Kiefer's clubs have maintained such a solid level of consistency, one loses an appreciation for them over time. Behind a stellar back line, the Bulls (8-4-9) won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament and reached the NCAAs for the seventh year in a row.
Also in the conversation: Matt Hill (men's tennis), Agustin Moreno (women's tennis)
Play of the Year
Among the few endearing moments provided by the men's basketball team was one that made SportsCenter's Top 10. In case you haven't seen Victor Rudd's posterizing of Rutgers F Junior Etou at least a dozen times, here it is.
Snub of the Year
In 2113, we'll still be scratching what's left of our scalps over Kloss' omission from the All-American Athletic Conference team. A Lou Groza Award finalist, Kloss led the nation with 11 field goals of 40 or more yards, and set a school record by converting 13 consecutive field goals at one point. Candidly, we believe this snub harmed the All-AAC team's overall credibility.
Also in the conversation: USF women's basketball team denied a spot in NCAA Tournament
Most Poignant Moment
A day after burying his mom, who had waged a valiant battle with uterine cancer, Bulls senior DE Ryne Giddins helped preserve his team's first win of the year. With USF leading Cincinnati by 13 with 6:45 to play, Giddins and DeDe Lattimore stuffed Tion Green on a fourth-and-inches play at
USF's 10-yard line. The Bulls held on, 26-20. "I was so impressed with (Giddins)," Coach Willie Taggart said.
Most Awkward Moment
While the discovery of Steve Masiello's embellished resume garnered the most national attention during USF's prolonged basketball coaching search, the immediate aftermath may have been more embarrassing for the Bulls. After Masiello disqualified himself, new Bulls AD Mark Harlan immediately turned his attention to UNLV's David Rice, meeting with the Runnin' Rebels alumnus in Tampa. Less than 24 hours after that meeting, Rice agreed to a contract extension with UNLV. In the vernacular of the 25-and-under demographic: USF got played.
Most Awkward Moment, Part Deux
On the same day USF's most bitter rival celebrated the biggest football win it its history, the Bulls countered by celebrating...wait for it...their mascot. On New Year's Day, several dignitaries including Taggart and Stan Heath were summoned to the Selmon Center to honor Rocky the Bull as winner of the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hours later, UCF demolished Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. The cheers -- and cackles -- reverberated all the way from Oviedo.
Lasting (or last) words
"I told my players, it's time for this program to get to a (NCAA) regional and compete for conference championships. We've got a beautiful facility, we've got good players and can't accept anything less than that. We've got to raise the bar here." -- former baseball coach Lelo Prado,
whose team finished 27-31
Have a good feeling that something special is going to happen tonight. I hope no one misses it -- Bulls RHP Jimmy Herget on Twitter, hours before taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 2-1 win against Connecticut
Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority. -- Bulls strength coach Hans Straub on Twitter, shortly after the 49ers took former USF DE Aaron Lynch in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Straub resigned days later
"My guess is they will do things that have never been done before at South Florida." -- Kentucky coach John Calipari upon USF's hiring of Antigua, one of his longtime assistants
Predictions for 2014-15
* Football team more than doubles its '13 win total, but falls just shy of a bowl berth.
* Behind first-team All-AAC G Courtney Williams, the women's basketball team earns second NCAA Tournament berth in three years
* Cid earns second consecutive All-American berth after another sparkling run in NCAA men's singles tourney
* Men's soccer team earns eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, winning at least one game in the postseason. For good measure, the Bulls women also reach NCAAs
* Only six months into the job, Harlan reaches a milestone, commemorating the 1,000th time he's asked whether USF will build an on-campus football stadium
* Two names you hear a lot: Price and McFarland
* Two names you barely hear: Eastman & Beaudine