TAMPA ― During the lone press conference he’ll give during his search for a new football coach, USF athletic director Michael Kelly refused to limit his candidate pool with a stated list of prerequisites.
Previous head coaching experience isn’t necessarily a must. Nor is a coordinator stint. Millennials, boomers, offensive savants, defensive scholars ― all will get a degree of consideration.
“We have so many amazing football coaches out there,” Kelly said, “so we’ll be open-minded to a lot of different levels of experience.”
Yet by the end of this 19-minute session before an uncharacteristically large media contingent, Kelly had backtracked, if only subconsciously. With each question he addressed, Kelly made it clear the fifth coach in Bulls history must ― absolutely must ― come equipped with skill and savvy in one vital area.
Public relations. Or more to the point, fundraising.
USF needs a P.T. Barnum, or P.J. Fleck.
“In a city like this, that has a lot of other entertainment opportunities and things of that nature, it becomes that much (more) important that we as an athletic department, coaches in all sports, need to be engaged,” Kelly said.
Which is to say, the new guy must be willing to barnstorm the booster circuit, kiss babies, smile for selfies, gorge on rubber chicken, anything to proselytize the merits of the USF Football Center.
You know, the things Charlie Strong wasn’t always inclined to do.
“I feel that Bulls Nation wants to make us great, but they want to feel a part of something,” Kelly said. “And the most that we can do as coaches and administrators to help be a part of that movement, that vibe, is very important for us.”
In a Tampa Bay Times column published Tuesday, our own John Romano suggested Kelly seek an ambitious riser instead of a retread, a visionary with a “dynamic presence.” Those qualities, obviously, could translate to game-planning and recruiting, both essential facets of a coaches’ job description.
But if they’re 1 and 1A, fundraising is 1B for the Bulls, at least at this program’s juncture.
Florida, FSU, Miami and UCF all have football centers and/or indoor practice facilities to showcase to recruits. So do American Athletic Conference rivals Houston, Temple, Cincinnati and SMU. Memphis’ facility is under construction.
USF football doesn’t even have its own weight room or training area. Football center? The first shovel has yet to hit the ground.
Hence the reason the Bulls need someone willing to dig in publicly.