TAMPA — Generally, the shining moments have been fleeting in USF's half-century of athletic endeavor.
A few strides in football. An inroad or two in basketball. A cameo by the softball team on its sport's grandest stage. And, of course, Jon Dennis.
To date, Dennis is the only Bulls athlete who owns a national title in a sport currently recognized, having won the NCAA men's outdoor 5,000 meters twice in the early 1990s (Michelle Scarborough won two national rifle titles a couple of years before).
Dennis descended from atop his last medal stand in 1993, and the Bulls haven't reached that figurative summit since. But two Bulls currently are making a serious climb. In fact, it's reasonable to suggest USF's number of national champs — in currently recognized sports — could triple by early June.
Roberto Cid and Matthew O'Neal are that legit.
Cid, currently the No. 2 men's singles player in the Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings, has defeated Tulane's Dominik Koepfer — recently ranked No. 1 — twice this month. The latest was a straight-sets triumph Saturday in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament at Memphis.
O'Neal, a three-time outdoor All-America triple jumper, owns the nation's best effort (54 feet, 10.75 inches) this season. Only one other athlete — Florida A&M junior Wells Jeudi — has even eclipsed 54 feet this year, according to Track & Field Results Reporting System (TFRRS).
The natural question is whether the duo's dominance can roll over into May and June.
Tennis bracketology — May Madness — can be every bit as volatile as basketball, as Cid can attest. As a sophomore in 2014, he upset top-seeded Clay Thompson of UCLA in the first round of the singles tourney.
"There's not a guy that I feel like this year is just killing everybody and is gonna run away with things," USF tennis coach Matt Hill said.
Even the slightest factor — from a slight wind to a slick runway — can alter the trajectory of a triple jump competition. Fortunately for O'Neal, he's no stranger to nationals, having earned All-America status five times (including indoor competition). But he has never placed higher than fourth at the NCAA outdoors.
"You just don't know," Hill said.
This we do know: If Cid and O'Neal stay hot (and healthy), this spring could go down as USF's greatest.
By leaps and bounces.
STAYING: In the wake of two significant offseason departures (Roddy Peters, Chris Perry) from the Bulls basketball program, freshman PG Jahmal McMurray made it clear Tuesday he won't be the third.
McMurray, who has seized the NCAA's new rule that allows players to explore their NBA draft status without relinquishing college eligibility, said he's "definitely coming back" for his sophomore year. Thrust into an expanded role due to depth issues last season, McMurray led USF in scoring (15.2 ppg), minutes (35.2) and assists (2.5).
Under the new legislation, McMurray can attend the NBA combine (May 11-15 in Chicago) if invited and go through one workout with each NBA club before making a decision. If he withdraws his name from draft consideration before May 25 and doesn't hire an agent, he can play for USF next season.
"When the new rule got announced, I just decided why not try to get some feedback or something," said McMurray. "I mean, those are people are at the highest level, so maybe they could tell me a few things I could do just to get better and work on my game and maybe … get to the next level. Then I'll come back to school and work on all the things that they tell me."
ODDS AND ENDS: USF's "Bark with the Bulls" night, where fans can bring their dogs (limit two per person) to the baseball and softball games against UCF, is Saturday. The softball game starts at 4, baseball at 6:30. Dogs must be on a leash. … Sophomore Astin Donovan, who went 7-for-11 with three multihit games in the softball team's weekend sweep of Tulsa, was named AAC player of the week. … In his shamelessly early NCAA Tournament forecast for 2017, ESPN women's bracketologist Charlie Creme lists USF as one of the "last four in" and playing the opening round in Los Angeles (as an 11-seed) for the second year in a row.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]