With its basketball teams opening their Conference USA schedules this week, USF has stepped up its promotion effort with its first radio and television advertising campaign in seven years.
"Now it's basketball season, and it's the time to do it," said Tom Veit, associate athletic director for marketing and business development. "It's a big shift for us, the first time since I've been here that we've been able to put some resources into promotion. (Athletic director) Doug ( Woolard) has a serious commitment to marketing."
Radio ads started running Monday on WDAE-AM 620 and cable TV spots on Bright House Networks start running today during programing on ESPN and USA. The advertising will cost USF about $80,000, and much of that has come from improved revenues from logo and licensing sales. Woolard said it was a priority to put that money back into promoting the Bulls.
"People come to sporting events for three reasons," Woolard said. "First, you have to have a good product, and second, you need a good venue for people to enjoy that product. But third, you have to get the message out to people about that product. Both teams have gotten off to good starts and I hope people will start participating with those teams in better fashion."
Robert McCullum's men are off to a 7-4 start and have matched last season's win total, and Jose Fernandez's women are on pace at 10-4 to break the school record of 16 wins and challenge for their first NCAA Tournament berth. What has been missing is the crowds to match that on-court improvement.
The men's team, averaging 2,150 fans in four home games, has the second-lowest attendance in C-USA, with only Tulane lower, and the women's team, averaging 335, has totaled one more fan than last-place Saint Louis.
There are more promotions on the way. The men's home game Feb. 5 against Tulane will celebrate the 15th anniversary of USF's first NCAA Tournament team, with throwback ticket prices and a reunion of the 1990 Bulls.
END OF THE ROAD: Injuries have limited Pasco grad Joe Bain, and now they're ending his college football playing days a year early.
Bain, who missed the final five games of his junior season with a pelvis injury, said he isn't returning for the spring semester.
"Even now, when I try to run, it's difficult," said Bain, who has had swelling between his pelvic bones since USF's loss to Army in October. "It's more than that, though. I had four surgeries on my knee and don't have any cartilage left there, and I had surgery on my shoulder (in 2003) as well. It's going to be tough not to play anymore, but I'll keep in touch with the guys."
Bain totaled 17 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns and was tied for the team lead in receiving yards before his injury.
DEAN LEAVITT?: The quick turnover of football coaches will give Jim Leavitt a surprising title when the Bulls join the Big East this fall: He will be the longest-tenured coach in the conference, entering his ninth season with the Bulls.
Of the other seven coaches, only Connecticut's Randy Edsall has been at his post longer than four seasons, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse breaking in new coaches this fall. Everybody else still has his original recruiting class.
THIS AND THAT: Look for familiar former Bulls in the NFL transactions as teams reload their offseason rosters with free agents. Former USF receiver Huey Whittaker, who was with the Steelers in the preseason, signed with the Jaguars on Tuesday. The women's basketball team had hoped to get center Sharon Cambridge back from an ankle injury Sunday against Florida, but she reaggravated it in practice Saturday and could be headed for a medical redshirt.
Times staff writer Greg Auman covers USF athletics. Reach him at (813) 226-3346 or aumansptimes.com.