TAMPA — In 24 days, USF's football team will play in the International Bowl in Toronto against Northern Illinois, a proud member of the Mid-American Conference.
But today, the Bulls will proudly announce that they're a Mac school.
That's Mac, as in Apple computers, thanks to what is being touted as a landmark partnership between USF and the California computer giant, giving each Bulls athlete access to a new Apple laptop.
Michael Hageloh, a spokesman for Apple's Higher Education group, told USF's board of trustees last week that the partnership was "a national game-changing moment, led by USF," and president Judy Genshaft was thrilled in telling trustees of the agreement.
"This is huge," she said. "The only university in the country where all of our student-athletes in NCAA sports have Apple laptop computers. This is incredible. It really is. … Having this ability to have such a top-notch computer with our top-notch athletes, anywhere, anytime, working on the studies and aspirations that they have, I think is phenomenal."
Apple.com should have details about the deal this morning — a Sports Illustrated photographer was on campus Monday, taking a panoramic shot of 461 student-athletes all holding new 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops, which retail for around $1,200 each. It's not known how much USF is paying for the computers.
NCAA bylaws say laptops must be only available on a "checkout and retrieval basis," so students won't be getting them so much as borrowing them during their time at school. USF officials will explain the partnership today and show how the benefit stays within NCAA rules.
Athletic director Doug Woolard showed the trustees a Big East map, illustrating how far removed USF is from the rest of the league. He hopes the laptops will help athletes better handle classwork while on the road.
"This league provides some great opportunities, but you can also see geographically, it provides some challenges for our athletes from a travel standpoint," Woolard said. "(Students will be) accessing e-mail on a bus, at the airport prior to or after road competition, or viewing course lectures on USF's network. Student-athletes will have a tool that will allow them to be academically successful with fewer obstacles."
WORTHY CAUSE: Women's basketball associate head coach Jeff Osterman is shepherding a charity drive at home men's and women's games in the next two weeks to benefit the Hillsborough Kids Foster Care Program.
As part of "Coach O's Giving Tree," Bulls fans can select an angel off the Christmas tree at Entry 3 of the Sun Dome during upcoming games and bring back the unwrapped item to dropoff boxes at other home games, or to the women's basketball office, through Dec. 21.
The organization oversees about 2,800 children in Hillsborough County, with a mission of keeping kids safe while strengthening families.
Fans can help starting Sunday, when a doubleheader has the men's team facing Central Michigan and the women facing Jacksonville.
THIS AND THAT: USF has a perfect record to maintain in Toronto, as Big East schools are 3-0 in the game, winning by an average of 14 points. The teams' mascots are a rematch of last season, which had the Buffalo Bulls and Connecticut Huskies. … Could the men's basketball team be 11-1 entering Big East play? The Bulls are 7-1 and have an RPI of 62 at collegeRPI.com. None of their next four opponents are ranked higher than 100.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.