Why USF football extended Jeff Scott despite his 3-18 record

Patience and progress were the two themes athletic director Michael Kelly stressed Wednesday.
USF athletic director Michael Kelly, right, continues to support football coach Jeff Scott, second from right.
USF athletic director Michael Kelly, right, continues to support football coach Jeff Scott, second from right. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Jan. 5, 2022

TAMPA — USF athletic director Michael Kelly cited two main reasons for extending football coach Jeff Scott despite a 3-18 record through two seasons: patience and progress.

“I think patience pays off when it needs to,” Kelly said.

Kelly stressed that point repeatedly across all sports during a wide-ranging news conference Wednesday, a day after USF announced that all 14 head coaches are under contract through at least 2023.

Scott’s two-year extension was the most notable because of football’s status and struggles. His record, including a 2-10 mark this past fall, come with caveats.

His first offseason came in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, depriving Scott and his staff of vital time to install his system and culture. The “extraordinary events” from the pandemic were specifically referenced in the contract extension he and Kelly signed last month. The football program is also on NCAA probation for violations committed by the previous regime. With those issues as a background, Kelly said the Bulls’ rebuild was “kind of on schedule.”

Though he and the program are unhappy with the results, Kelly said he has seen progress under Scott. The culture has improved. Recruiting has been positive, with the Bulls boasting the nation’s No. 1 incoming transfer class. USF suffered close losses to BYU, UCF and Tulsa and was competitive in other games, including against a Cincinnati team that made the College Football Playoff.

USF was competitive against Cincinnati this season.
USF was competitive against Cincinnati this season. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]

“When I saw that level of focus and energy even despite the record or score, that gave me great hope,” Kelly said.

Kelly is also encouraged by the relative lack of attrition on the roster.

“I think (players) see it,” Kelly said. “I think they feel it, that they’re on the verge. They don’t want to miss out. I would say that to Bulls Nation. You don’t want to give up now when you’ve already climbed up the mountain. You want to enjoy the spoils of the next couple years to come.”

Kelly also acknowledged that the athletic department as a whole must do its part to support football. The program did a $3.3 million renovation to the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center last year, is building an indoor practice facility (still on track to open later this year) and is pushing hard for an on-campus stadium. Kelly called Scott a “fundraising partner” in those efforts.

Related: On-campus football stadium talks advance at USF

With those upgrades in place or coming and the initial wave of the pandemic behind us, Kelly said it’s almost like a new start.

“In my mind, I’m kind of like, ‘OK, excuses over,’” Kelly said. “We know what we need to do. We’ve got the right team together, and now we move forward, and we’ll evaluate and be accountable to each other, including myself, from this point forward.”

Contract details

Scott took a pay cut in October 2020 because of the pandemic and the “budget shortfall” it created. Beginning that month, his salary dropped by about $70,000 total for the final three months of 2020 and $180,000 over the first half of 2021. He also agreed to forgo any bonuses.

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In his latest deal — signed Dec. 16 — Scott took what amounted to a $100,000 pay cut for each of the next three seasons compared to the original contract. He’s set to make $2.4 million this calendar year with a $100,000 raise in ‘23 and ‘24. His salary stays at $2.7 million in ‘25 and ‘26.

USF agreed to spend an extra $100,000 on assistant coaches and support staff compared to the original deal. For 2022, that figure is $3.7 million.

The amended contract does not include a change to his buyout, if he’s fired without cause. His original deal calls for him to receive his base salary ($500,000) for 20 weeks from USF. It does not include any potential compensation from the USF Foundation; Scott’s successor, Charlie Strong, was owed $3.1 million when he was fired in 2019.

Kelly also received a five-year extension that will keep him under contract through June 2028.

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