The day the University of South Florida surpassed $300-million in research funding, few if any people cheered until they were hoarse. Yet millions of sports fans took notice last Saturday when the football Bulls beat the West Virginia University team - a seventh-ranked, three-touchdown favorite - in a nationally televised game.
Okay, so a university's football victory should not be considered of the same magnitude as an academic achievement. We agree, but tell that to the Gators, 'Noles or Hurricanes on a fall Saturday afternoon.
With its win over the Mountaineers, the USF team accomplished three things. It finished the season with an enviable 8-4 record and bowl eligibility, earned mention in the same breath as the state's three football powerhouses and put the university on the map. The curious may pay attention because of the final score and end up impressed with USF's other attributes as well. In today's competitive society, even a university with a solid academic reputation is still better off with a winning team.
What USF football coach Jim Leavitt has accomplished in a short time is remarkable. This was only the 10th year of football at the school, and only the second in the Big East conference. Florida State University coaching legend Bobby Bowden wears hats older than USF football.
"We're creating history here," said Leavitt, who is now being sought by established football programs that have fallen on hard times. USF has a way to go, both in football and academics. As it makes significant progress, the big victory reminds us what an asset the university is to the Tampa Bay area. Go Bulls!