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USF mourns loss of one of its great advocates

Lee Roy Selmon greets son Lee Roy Jr. at a ceremony for seniors on Dec. 4, 2004. All three of his children — Brandy, Chris and Lee Roy Jr. — graduated from USF.

STEFANIE BOYAR | Times (2004)

Lee Roy Selmon greets son Lee Roy Jr. at a ceremony for seniors on Dec. 4, 2004. All three of his children — Brandy, Chris and Lee Roy Jr. — graduated from USF.

TAMPA — The excitement of USF's win at No. 16 Notre Dame on Saturday was put in perspective Sunday, as the Bulls mourned the passing of a man who made such a milestone possible.

Former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon, who led the charge to bring football to USF, died Sunday at age 56, two days after suffering a stroke.

"This is a gentleman that was a Hall of Famer, who has restaurants and highways and everything else named after him and is revered in the community," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "But if you sat down and talked with him, you wouldn't even know he'd ever played the game or had any kind of fame or fortune behind him. He was such a special man because he was so humble, so genuine and had such a great heart. It's a sad day for all of us."

Bulls players wore Selmon's No. 63 on their helmets in tribute to him Saturday, but his impact was felt throughout his 18 years working at USF — twice as long as he spent as an NFL player.

"He was the most humble icon I've ever had the honor of being around," said former Bulls men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg, who considered Selmon a friend and mentor. "He had tremendous integrity, great leadership skills, and he had likability. … He had a quiet leadership, and what he brought to the university was credibility."

Selmon was USF's athletic director from 2001 to 2004 but had worked for the Bulls since 1993. The man who preceded him as AD, Paul Griffin, said his reputation as a great player and a better person helped USF pick up key supporters as the Bulls sought to add a football program.

"Now the program has coaches and players that become the face of the program," Griffin said. "Prior to having that, there couldn't have been a better person, a representative of all the good things about college football, than Lee Roy. That's why we sought, recruited and were fortunate to get him to join the team, to be the face of the program before we had a ball or a helmet. It was just a vision."

Selmon's legacy can be seen all over USF's athletic department and campus, and throughout a community that loved him, USF president Judy Genshaft said.

"It's a loss for the university and a loss for the entire Tampa Bay community," she said. "We're a better university because of Lee Roy Selmon. He cared about all of our student-athletes. … He cared about all of them and built an incredible legacy."

Doug Woolard, who followed Selmon as athletic director, said so much of the Bulls' success — from the rise of its football program to its position in the Big East — would not have been possible without Selmon's contributions over the past 18 years.

"I've lost a special friend, a colleague," Woolard said. "Lee Roy Selmon not only stands for everything that's right about football, but he stands for everything that's right in life. I've never been around a guy with any more class, any more integrity, ever, than Lee Roy Selmon."

USF mourns loss of one of its great advocates 09/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 3:24pm]
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