Friday, November 17, 2017

Daniel Ruth: Gators, Seminoles and Bulls — who cares?


There seems to be a steady drumbeat for the head of University of South Florida football coach Skip Holtz, who apparently has been unable to summon the lads of the gridiron to rise to end-zone greatness.

In case the players forgot, it's that splotch of turf at the very end of the field.

It seems like a small enough expectation, given that Holtz is among the highest paid employees on the USF campus. You don't fork over ridiculous paychecks for pats on the rump. So is it too much to ask to beat Ball State, which is about as silly a name for a university as one can imagine?

Still, I have to admit I'm fairly new to this sort of ra-ra-ism. For the first time in my life, I have found myself a graduate of a school with like a real — supposedly — athletic program that alumni get all lathered up over.

Back in 2010, I finished my studies for a master's degree at USF. Go, Bulls. I'll save the exclamation mark for when Holtz finally manages to beat a greater power than the Fighting Whatevers of Chattanooga.

I grew up in Ohio, where of course Woody Hayes' Ohio State Buckeyes were revered. But I never got into all the OSU idol worship, because while the team was certainly successful, it was also the most boring sporting event to witness, with the possible exception of curling. Hayes threw fewer passes than a cloistered monk. Three yards and — well, 3 yards of more 3 yards. Gripping.

Then I moved to the Sunshine State only to discover that there are two kinds of people in this world — Gators and Seminoles. Oh, and a third — those of us who didn't give a rat's patootie about either team. And still don't.

It always has been a mystery to me why people invest so much emotional capital on which side of the Tallahassee/Gainesville axis of absurdity they happen to fall. It's merely all about a stupid football program after all. Yet figures like Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden are imbued with greater admiration and genius-like qualities than their universities' respective scholars, who actually contribute to the reasons why universities are supposed to exist in the first place.

My own undergraduate alma mater, Gannon University in Erie, Pa., has such an obscure football program, it doesn't even show up in the Sunday paper's agate type of scores. Or put another way, you could find out that Adrian beat Alma, Ferris State upped Grand Valley and Wartburg (Wartburg!) crushed Buena Vista, but not that Gannon was obliterated by Edinboro on the way to a 1-5 record.

It's entirely possible the paper in Erie might even overlook Gannon's football travails. Better not to annoy the public too much, lest they start lobbying for Gannon to hire the entirely possible soon-to-be- available Skip Holtz.

And so the Bulls' march toward mediocrity moves ever forward. Hands are wrung. Heads droop a little lower. Let the gnashing of teeth begin. This is probably foolishly irrelevant to note, given the team's pitiful win-loss record, but USF is still a pretty good place to learn stuff.

The absolute worst-case scenario for Holtz if he is shown the door for losing some football games will be a $2.5 million parting air-kiss, just a pinch more than if a history professor were to be laid off.

Meanwhile, Gannon faces a brutal schedule against powerhouses Lock Haven, California University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and those juggernauts, the Fighting Cocktails of Long Island University Post.

Talk about pressure!

South Shore&


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