NEW YORK — When Doug Woolard came in as USF's athletic director in 2004, there was a major rebranding at work, with the unveiling of the Bulls' "U" logo and an exciting transition to playing in the Big East in 2005.
Now, as USF wraps up an eight-year run in the Big East and moves ahead in a new, as-yet-unnamed league, there's another new era coming, and with it a chance for USF to establish itself in a new conference.
"Once the name is selected by the membership, we'll have an opportunity again to rebrand and to start a new identity," said Woolard, sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden before the Bulls' overtime loss to Seton Hall on Tuesday night.
The Bulls went into the Big East as a young program in a tradition-rich league, but this time USF has more big-league experience than most of its new conference.
The opportunity for greater success will be there, but Woolard said there's no change in urgency or expectations.
"I've always wanted us to be the best we can be, even on a national level, so our goals won't change a bit," he said.
Woolard said the process of splitting the Big East and working on the details of a new league have been a huge part of recent months for presidents and athletic directors. The uncertainty of which schools are going where will soon give way to the relative calm of a new league moving forward.
"I think the next step is just stability, and knowing that everybody now in this league will look alike, everybody will have the same interest level because they're going to be in all sports," Woolard said. "Bringing this group together and making this group as strong as it can be as quick as it can be will be our next agenda."
CLOSER TO HOME: After three years of football holding preseason training camp in Vero Beach, USF is considering new options for Willie Taggart's first season with the Bulls. One possibility would be training at the football complex at IMG Academies in Bradenton, which now has the rooms to house a full college team for part of the time between the start of camp (Aug. 4) and the start of fall classes (Aug. 26).
IMG's facilities would be convenient for local fans, less than an hour from campus, and for coaches and staff if they need to go back to campus during camp.
No formal decision has been made where the Bulls will camp, though the logistics of housing the full team on campus remains a hurdle to be cleared before the Bulls can hold a full camp in Tampa.
THIS AND THAT: USF's average home attendance in men's and women's basketball this season hit high marks during the Big East era, up 33 percent from the last year in the Sun Dome (2010-11) on the men's side and up 27 percent for the women. The Bulls' challenge now is maintaining that attendance with less of a draw in opponents in its new league next season. … Softball has bounced back nicely from a 6-10 start, winning 10 in a row, including senior Lindsey Richardson's five-inning no-hitter in Tuesday's 11-0 win against Maine. She struck out 10 and walked one. The Bulls had four home runs vs. Maine.
Greg Auman can be reached at (813) 226-3346 and at [email protected] Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.