USF coaches' tour makes Lakeland stop
LAKELAND -- USF's traveling revival of sorts made several stops along the Interstate 4 corridor Tuesday, bringing a message of hope to congregants starving for it.
Those imparting words of a football/hoops resurrection were the same ones being counted on to pull it off.
"I won't use the word 'potential' anymore," athletic director Mark Harlan told a luncheon audience of roughly 75 at Grasslands Golf & Country Club in south Lakeland. "The expectation here at this school is, we've got to win...so you're not gonna hear me use that word again."
Lakeland was the inaugural Florida stop for The Around the Horns Coaches Tour, a caravan that on Tuesday also featured football coach Willie Taggart, men's basketball coach Orlando Antigua and women's golf coach Marci Kornegay. The group made its way to Orlando later in the day, and
makes four Pinellas County stops Wednesday.
Its purpose: Lend a collective set of ears to Bulls boosters, as well as some insight into USF's philosophy and future under a young new regime. In Lakeland, a question-and-answer session was included, though the only real grilling was done to the seasoned-chicken entree.
Nonetheless, Harlan and Co. skirted no subject and offered some newsy tidbits in the process. Here are the highlights:
* The first question Harlan took from the audience involved USF's current -- and long-term -- conference affiliation. "I get it," he said. "I get the question every day: 'What are you gonna do to get us into a (power) conference?' All those conversations we'll be a part of, but you know what? We've got to win. You can't have 15,000 people in (Raymond James Stadium) and expect to jump to the Big 12. So we have to worry about ourselves...so that we're ready."
* Starting this football season, Harlan said the team buses will depart Friday afternoons from the Marshall Student Center in an effort to galvanize the student fan base.
* Taggart said this year's preseason camp will be held on campus. Players report Aug. 3 and begin practice the following day.
* Taggart also said P Mattias Ciabatti is the only one who enters preseason camp with his job secure. "Going into my fifth year as a head football coach, this is the first time we're gonna actually have competition at every position," he told the audience. "I've never had that before."
* Antigua, hired away from a program (Kentucky) noted for recruiting one-and-done players, was asked what his recruiting philosophy will be at a school that typically attracts four-year players: "Trying to recruit kids with one-and-done talent that we can keep for four years." (The room roared.)
* Antigua mentioned that, in addition to FSU, Seton Hall and possibly N.C. State will be featured on USF's 2014-15 non-conference slate
* Harlan said he's concerned about the nation's five "power" conferences seeking autonomy (i.e. flexibility to create their own bylaws) as it regards competition rules that would give those schools clear recruiting advantages. As for any rule changes involving student-athlete welfare, Harlan indicated those likely also would be adopted by AAC schools. "But what we can't have is transfer rules that are different...or that they set," he said.
* Antigua reiterated that 6-foot-9 rising sophomore C Chris Perry's physical makeover is striking. Perry, a Bartow native listed at 266 pounds last year, recently said he already has dropped 10-12 pounds. "We had a recruit on campus and went out to dinner," Antigua said. "Chris was the host, so we're eating and everybody's done with dinner, here comes the dessert tray. He's looking at that dessert tray and he just smiled, and the staff was looking at him and he goes, 'Nah, I'm gonna pass.' I go, 'Yessss.'"