USF officials promote school in letter to Big 12
Three USF officials including President Judy Genshaft recently sent a two-page letter to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby indicating why the school would be an ideal Big 12 candidate.
The letter, obtained Thursday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Times, highlights USF's increasing academic prominence nationally, growing alumni base locally (160,000 in the Tampa Bay region) and internationally, overall area population and media-market size, and collective athletic competitiveness.
Athletic director Mark Harlan and Board of Trustees chairman Brian Lamb also signed the letter, dated July 29.
"We believe our values of commitment to our student athletes, engagement in the community, academic achievement, creativity, and integrity align with the Big 12's strong foundation of competitive excellence," the letter states.
"Guided by our vision for future growth and national prominence, we are confident that the University of South Florida would add its own unique strengths to the conference -- not to mention a foothold in one of the country's most populous and rapidly growing regions."
To this point, USF officials have maintained a stealth strategy in their pursuit of Big 12 membership, refusing to publicly comment on their Power Five aspirations. As recently as Tuesday, Harlan held that stance.
"I'm not gonna speak to our strategy, public or otherwise, in particular right now just because we're so excited about the start of the football season and really celebrating the American Athletic Conference's accomplishments this year," he said Tuesday at the AAC's football media day in Newport, R.I.
"But I also remain steadfast in my belief that we're an aspirational institution, and we're gonna continue to try to do great things on the football field and in the rest of our sports."
Among the attributes USF officials cite in the letter:
* An overall football home-attendance average of more than 40,000 since 2005, the year the school joined the Big East
* More than 160,000 alumni residing in the bay area, and "thousands more living in 146 countries around the globe"
* "Large and active groups of alumni" of current Big 12 schools residing in the bay area
* The nation's 11th-largest media market (according to Nielsen)
* The College Football Playoff National Championship being held at Raymond James Stadium in January
* USF ranked ninth among public universities nationally for U.S. Patents granted in 2015
* An 83-percent graduation-success rate among student-athletes, who own a combined 3.085 GPA
* Nine of the school's 19 sanctioned sports qualifying for the postseason in 2015-16, including the football team reaching a bowl game